27 June, 2011


Breaking into Britain

I don't visit Biased BBC much these days, or indeed David Vance's other group blog, ATW. I find the unrelentingly strident tone and the cast-iron certainty gets a bit wearing, to be honest; it's a bit like having the Rev Dr Paisley bellowing at you from a dozen feet away — through a megaphone. On a rare visit today, however, I came across this post, which reminded me that I had intended to inflict my own views on you about Evan Davis's recent limp-wristed documentary foray into illegal immigration.

Davis's Panorama programme, "Breaking into Britain" (broadcast 16 June), was not quite as overtly preachy as I expected. Perhaps because it spread itself rather too thin to have much substance. Surprisingly, Tinsel Tits himself adopted a very low profile, just topping and tailing the programme and swanning around the Med in a Frontex patrol boat for a couple of shots. Otherwise two legal UK immigrants, an Afghan and a West African, followed the migrant trail from their respect regions of origin.

They dipped in and out of the respective overland migrant trails, showing crowds of hopefuls milling around at various transit points. There was relatively little discussion of the role of the paid traffickers and the extent to which they maltreated and cheated their "customers" on the intervening overland segments which the reporters overflew, apart from some fuzzy mobile-phone footage of the corpses of migrants abandoned in the desert by their traffickers. Don't want to show too much detail of inhumane greedy Darkies maltreating and exploiting other Darkies, do we? Detracts from the core message of Western inhumanity, greed and guilt, innit.

There was some random footage of people valiantly trying to break through fortified borders and board HGVs approaching ferry ports, and a sprinkling of fairly inconsequential interviews. There was a bit of tear-jerking as Kassim (the African) broke down while listening to a West African woman, much raped en route by her overland traffickers and now stuck with her children in fairly basic accommodation in Morocco; she was still hoping to reach Europe where her "human rights would be respected". Shoaib (the Afghan) was visibly overcome while helping out in some kind of charity-run feeding station where Afghans and their families, stranded in Athens, were receiving hot meals. We were shown the plight of an Afghan family with two or three children, bedding down to sleep rough in the streets of Athens.

All good stuff, and all suitably aw diddums at a personal and individual level, but what are we to make of the broader, dare I say strategic, picture?

I'd say that by and large these migrants are honest people expecting to work, hoping to prosper and to support their families back home. What can we do for them?

There seem to be broadly three approaches, of which any others are variants in detail.

1. Do nothing. Our (theoretical) immigration controls erect an obstacle course which effectively limits the number of migrants, through cost, hardship and often through death. To a degree, it works. Arguably inhumane and only partially effective, but proven.

2. Open the borders. Make it straightforward for migrants to enter legally, without limit. Accept the view of the Left that the poor of the world are so determined to get here we cannot keep them out. Well, there are plenty of predictions about the outcome of that, so I won't rehearse them here. The social unrest will be "interesting" though as indigenes and recent migrants slug it out, with the established migrant communities stuck in the middle and probably coming off worst. An initially humane solution with potentially disastrous outcomes. What about simply relaxing the borders? Say a US-style green card lottery? One question: has the green card lottery stopped illegal immigration into the USA? Doesn't work.

3. Discourage it at source. One thing stood out from Tinsel Tits' little doco. All of the potential migrants had a rose-tinted, almost fabulous, view of life in Europe. As if they had been watching Dallas or Desperate Housewives on the telly and thought the West was all like that. Perhaps they had. The pressure was also on those migrants who had reached Europe to lie about their living conditions both out of shame at their own failure and to spare the feelings of the folk back home. What might help I don't know. Propaganda perhaps — compulsory screenings in Kabul showing Neapolitan slums? Unlikely to be entirely believed. Honest reports from the returned and failed migrants?

It might help a little but perhaps what might be most effective is knowledge of the certainty of failure. Just as it is the certainty of arrest and conviction that is the most effective deterrent against much crime, certainly "rational" premeditated crime, the certainty that the attempt to enter Europe will fail may be the most effective deterrent against illegal migration.

Remember everybody's favorite politician, Nick Griffin, saying something to the effect that the only thing which would stop "refugee" boats crossing the Med was to sink a couple pour encourager les autres. Oh what a feast of self-righteousness we all had in condemning him. Well, actually he was echoing the remarks already made by several Italian politicians, but whatever he and they actually said, they have a point.

Not blowing migrant boats out of the water as a message, which remains a step too far for most of us — at the moment — but the certainty that, once landed, they will be detained, in reasonable comfort, but with no access to economic opportunity and for as long as necessary until they can be returned. Whatever that requires. If you refuse to identify your origin, you stay in detention. If your country of origin is being difficult about taking you back because, well, it prefers to have you in Europe sending back remittances thank you very much, you stay in detention.

That might work.

I'm sorry, individually, for the African woman stuck in Morocco. I'm sure Europe could easily accept her and give her and her children new lives. We couldn't do that for the tens of millions who would be encouraged to follow in her wake. What use will Europe be to them, or us, if it is reduced to the social and economic chaos of the Congo? Better that she had not made her traumatic and fruitless journey in the first place.

I'm sorry, individually, for the Afghan family sleeping rough in the streets of Athens and asking, "Is this really Europe?" Yes it is, and it would be even more so if all of the poor of Asia managed to get here. Go back home and try to make something of your own country. We'll try and help you with aid if we can, but we can't guarantee anything. Perhaps those nice Chinese have got some money.

As all good text books used to say, it is left as an exercise to the reader to evaluate which is the author's preferred solution.

"... which remains a step too far for most of us — at the moment .."

Oh, I think it always will.

I hope so, Julia, but I'm not sanguine.

I don't foresee European navies actually shelling refugee boats any time soon, but "out of sight, out of mind" responses, like turning away approaching vessels even though you confidently expect them to founder before getting back whence they started; that's probably the next step. Very easy to rationalize away.

When I were a lad... over-population was like global warming: the dibble itself. Then it went quiet.

Strolling through The Regent's Park recently, I happened upon the London Green Fayre (or summink) around lunchtime. With an organic sausage in a roll and real ale in hand(s) the best spot to relax avec entertainment was the speakes' tent.

A proper toff from (formerly of the diplomacy corp) was speaking on behalf of Popuation Matters. Most interesting.

The Right religions, the liberal consensus and feminism had teamed-up to, very sucessfully, smother all suggestion that billions more two legged mammals could in any way be a problem.

His best moment, I thought, was in response to a quesion from the floor re 'the ageing population'.

"An ecological Ponzi Scheme" he called the current policy of breed more youngsters, and if you can't do that (you spunkless honkies) import em.

They think it is the biggest issue of them all. I'm still wracking my brain for a rebuttal.

I'd say the curiously deafening silence from the modern Left on the subject of overpopulation is indicated by the generation name given to folk of my vintage: baby boomers.

Back in the 1960s and 70s, when the neo-Malthusianism of the likes of Paul Ehrlich was gospel to "progressives", us evil Westerners were the main culprits, breeding irresponsibly while recklessly consuming everything we could lay our grubby hands on. Non-Westerners also overbred, of course, but since they survived on a bowl of rice a day and generally sat around in their grass huts dying quietly without making much environmental impact, they weren't a problem.

Since then things have changed. White (and Yellow) people have got population growth under control. Populations are shrinking at the moment, sometimes dramatically, but I suspect that, left to themselves, these populations would stabilize as living conditions became less crowded and more congenial all round.

Nowadays, Black and Brown people are not only benefiting from improved public health and medical services but also aspiring to the consumer lifestyle, while still breeding as if 90% of their kids will still die before maturity.

It is there the overpopulation problem lies, with the Black and Brown peoples. Unfortunately you can't say that without appearing ... what's that nasty word that starts with an R?

Tricky one, that. Cue much displacement activity and searching for other, any other, explanations.

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