People seeking safe haven is not a 'crisis'

2 January 2019 - 4:30pm

Photo: Marine Nationale
Photo: Marine Nationale

Two-hundred and thirty desperate men, women and children seeking safe haven in the UK is not a ‘crisis’. Politicians and sections of the media are seeking to make political capital out of a story of human misery. In seeking to stoke fears of migrants they are taking a page out of the far-right’s handbook – used all too effectively by Donald Trump and fascist leaders across Europe.

The truth is that the 277 million people on the move around the world are moving simply to survive and have the right to a dignified life. The overwhelming majority of those forced from their homes do so inside their own country or to neighbouring poor countries who offer them safe haven. Very few ever make it to the global North, and when they do they are scapegoated for social ills that are the result of disastrous policies of austerity and cuts to public services. It’s a classic of case turning the most marginalised against each other.

The real crisis taking place is that of a broken economic model of neo-liberalism, where 0.7% of the world’s population has amassed half the world’s wealth and grows ever richer, whilst 70% of all working people own just 2.7%.

It’s a crisis of inequality, where half the world’s population – 3.5 billion – people survive on $5 a day. Billions are denied the right to housing, shelter, education and health – fundamental rights, enshrined in international human rights law – whilst the bosses of big business award themselves millions.

It’s a crisis of climate injustice, where 1°c warming has unleashed killer floods, droughts and famines, devastating the lives and livelihoods of millions of people, those who are the least responsible for causing climate change.

It’s a crisis of human rights, where 70 years after the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, millions around the world are still denied the right to live free from persecution and injustice. Yet the UK adds fire to conflict by doubling its arms sales in the past year to countries on its own list of human rights abusers such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Israel and Pakistan.

If politicians were serious about tackling global migration, they would be focusing on the structural reasons why people are forced to move from their homes. They would be clamping down on big business and ensuring that everyone has a living wage – no matter where they live. They would be committed to ensuring that the UK had an ethical foreign policy and that it stops arming human rights abusers. They would be overhauling trade policies, which deliberatively impoverish so much of the global South so that UK banks and corporations can get richer and richer. They would be at the forefront of tackling the climate crisis, doing their fair share of global effort to keep below 1.5c and helping poorer countries deal with the devastating impacts. They would be talking about safe and fair asylum policies, and an end to the hostile environment. They would put a stop to militarised border policing, and the offshoring of border controls which has resulted in 35,000 people drowning in the Mediterranean. 

And they would be standing up to the toxic message of the far-right and racists – with a message of compassion, humanity and a commitment to create a fairer, safer and more equal world for us all.

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