The recent migration crisis in Europe has been repeatedly called the greatest human crisis since World War II. The reality is that one in 122 humans on planet Earth is a refugee. Thousands of people everyday are fleeing Syria, Iraq and other dystopian countries in search of better lives. But the struggle that each one of them has to face is truly heart breaking.
The assumption is that the majority of those trying to reach Europe are fleeing poverty, which is not considered by the international community as a good enough reason to move to another country. However, by the end of July, 62% of those who had reached Europe by boat ,this year, were from Syria, Eritrea and Afghanistan, according to figures compiled by the UN. These are countries torn apart by war, dictatorial oppression, and religious extremism – and, in Syria’s case, all three. Their citizens almost always have the legal right to seek refuge in Europe. And if you add those coming from Darfur, Iraq, Somalia, and some parts of Nigeria into the mix – then the total proportion of migrants likely to qualify for asylum rises to well over 70%.
If you read the British press, you’d think that Calais was the major battleground of the European migrant crisis, and that Britain was the holy grail of its protagonists. In reality, the migrants at Calais account for as little as 1% of those who have arrived in Europe so far this year. Estimates suggest that between 2,000-5,000 migrants have reached Calais, which is between 1% and 2.5% of the more than 200,000 who have landed in Italy and Greece. Just as importantly, there is no evidence to suggest that as many as seven in ten refugees have reached Britain after arriving in Calais.
In the dog-whistle rhetoric of Hammond and Theresa May, the archetypal contemporary migrant in Europe is from Africa. But again, that’s not true. This year, according to UN figures, 50% alone are from two non-African countries: Syria (38%) and Afghanistan (12%). When migrants from Pakistan, Iraq and Iran are added into the equation, it becomes clear that the number of African migrants is significantly less than half. Even so, as discussed above, many of them – especially those from Eritrea, Darfur, and Somalia – have legitimate claims to refugee status.
Hammond and David Cameron argue that the solution to migration is to increase deportations. They believe this will save Britain money, as less cash will be spent on paying each asylum seeker £36.95 per week. However, this strategy ignores the cost of deportations – whose alleged financial cost could rival that of the asylum seekers’ benefits bill. According to a series of investigations by the website ‘The Migrant Files’, as many as €11 billion have been spent on repatriating migrants to their countries of origin since 2000. A further billion has been blown on Europe-wide coordination efforts to secure European borders – money that could have been spent on integrating migrants into European society.
Despite the hysteria, the number of refugees in the UK has actually fallen by 76,439 since 2011. That’s according to Britain’s Refugee Council, which crunched the numbers gleaned from UN data and found that the number of refugees in the UK fell from 193,600 to 117,161 in the past four years. By comparison, the proportion of refugees housed by developing countries in the past 10 years has risen, according to the UN, from 70% to 86%. Considering the fact that this is an international crisis that deserves the support of developed nations around the world, Britain could do much more.