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Karen Harradine: The weak and corrupt EU has lost the plot on refugees


My UK citizenship ceremony was one of the happiest days of my life. I sang ‘God Save the Queen’ as loud as I could and drank cups of tea with other new citizens. The process to obtain UK citizenship was long and laborious. I did not like it but I respected it. This was a country in control of its borders. But no longer – immigration has reached crisis point. Angela Merkel’s bizarre decision to invite migrants to Europe is social, cultural, and probably, economic suicide. The refugee crisis is now a crucial part of the EU debate and could lead to the UK voting out this summer.

There is a lot of emotive language around immigration, which obscures the real issues. So we need to use the correct terminology when describing the migrant crisis. There is a difference between asylum seekers, refugees and economic migrants. Economic migrants are those whose main aim is to seek work, and are the majority of those currently causing havoc in Europe. The terrorists hiding among the thousands of illegal migrants flooding through the porous and lax borders of Europe are certainly not asylum seekers or refugees. A refugee is someone who has fled their country of origin, mainly because of war. Asylum seekers are refugees who are living in a host country but have not had their asylum applications completed.

In the UK asylum seekers have to go through a lengthy application process to obtain refugee status, which then allows them to apply for permanent residency. Contrary to popular opinion it is not an easy life being an asylum seeker in the UK. Most live in dire poverty and terrible accommodation while they wait for their applications to be processed. Unlike those with refugee status, asylum seekers are not allowed to work.

I am from Africa. I know what a refugee looks like. They do not look like the fit and well-fed young men striding ashore the beaches of Europe, wearing leather jackets and chatting on iPhones. Real refugees are starving, dressed in rags and exhausted to the point of being catatonic. They are often women, children and elderly men – the younger men are frequently killed in war. Every time I see a news report or photo of these male migrants in Europe I keep asking myself where the women and children are. These anomalies make me suspicious.  Perhaps these men are the advance guard to be followed by their wives and children. Even so, they are what they look like, not refugees or asylum seekers, but economic migrants.

The refugees I have seen are often too weak and traumatised to riotquite unlike the men in Calais and Greece.   They do not have the energy to go attacking young women on New Year’s Eve as did the sex pest gangs in Germany who turned out to be mainly from Algeria – a country which is unpleasant to live in but is not at war.

The danger of overwrought emotions polarising this debate is a real one. Logic and facts are what is needed right now. According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 617,000 immigrants to the UK last year. Only 38,878 had applied for asylum. Almost half of the immigrants were from the EU. Furthermore the EU’s ever-changing policy on refugees means the UK has less and less control over its borders. Leaving the EU would give the UK more power over who comes through our borders).

The British are kind and generous people and most would support policies to help those genuinely in need. It is also true that the world is a global village and that a certain amount of immigration is inevitable, and maybe a necessity, for a healthy economy. But uncontrolled, then I fear it is a case of when, and not if, that the dreadful events of Paris and Brussels will happen in the UK.

So what is the solution?

One – We leave the EU and strengthen our borders. Only then can we cut down on the economic migrants we don’t need to reclaim the resources required to give sanctuary to real refugees. David Cameron’s policy of taking 20,000 Syrians from the refugee camps of Lebanon and bringing them directly to the UK is a good idea, provided an appropriate vetting process is established and that no Isis terrorist sneaks into the UK via this system.

Two – Britain must, as it always has done, help those in dire need, not least refugee children traumatised by war. But there has to be a tough policy in place to distinguish between genuine children and young men who lie about their ages to obtain asylum in Europe – an unfortunately common occurrence. The brutal murder of a social worker by a refugee man masquerading as boy in a Swedish youth centre is a warning to us to be careful.

Three – We must reject emotive language but be realistic. We cannot ignore the fact that the majority of these current ‘refugees’ are economic migrants or that terrorists are cynically exploiting the situation to gain access to our shores.  Britons are tired of being called racists or ‘little Englanders’ when it comes to wanting control over their borders and a sensible refugee policy from their own government.

Four – Though it is unlikely that wealthier countries like Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia will take in their share of refugees and asylum seekers, they still should be pressured to do so.

Five – To maintain the refuge it has traditionally given to the dispossessed and the persecuted, Britain has to prioritise its spending. Though a relatively wealthy country, it has limited resources and is in debt. The government has a responsibility to its electorate when it comes to spending our money on immigration policies. Britons are tired of seeing hate preachers flourish in their country) and benefit dependents joining Isis.

This means:

  1. a) Disbanding the disastrous DfID (Department for Intentional Development). We do not need to pay for India’s space programme or for schools in Pakistan. Nor should we enrich corrupt dictators. The 0.7 per cent of the budget, which is ring-fenced for DfID, should instead be used to help genuine asylum seekers, our schools and the NHS. This way, untainted money can be used for asylum seekers without causing legitimate consternation.
  2. b) Modifying the Human Rights Act by putting a stop to the ridiculous pay-outs to criminals and terrorists.  Large amounts of taxpayers’ money have been wasted on foreign criminals and their lawyers, who misuse this Act to fight deportation in our courts. This money would be better spent on those asylum seekers and refugees who are not criminals or terrorists.

Six – Finally the government must resist the bleatings of inane celebrities like Benedict Cumberbatch and Emma Thompson. It must condemn the immature and delusional anarchists and far Left groups who caused such havoc in Calais that must have the monsters of Isis laughing at their stupidity and their ‘welcome refugee’ signs.

The weak and corrupt EU may have lost the plot on refugees but it is still not too late for the UK to get it right and win back respect from its citizens and the rest of the world.

(Image: Freedom House)

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Karen Harradine
Karen Harradine
Karen is an anthropologist and freelance journalist. She writes on anti-Semitism, Israel and spirituality. She is @KarenH777on Twitter.

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