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Refugee crisis – your questions answered

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Issue 2470
Desperate migrants in Calais face armed cops and razor wire fences
Desperate migrants in Calais face armed cops and razor wire fences (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Why are there so many migrants?

The bIggest group of migrants coming to Europe at the moment are Syrians.

They are fleeing the brutal civil war that developed after an uprising that began in 2011 was crushed. Half the population of Syria have been forced from their homes.

Migrants are also escaping the authoritarian regime in Eritrea. The Western-led wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya have created millions of refugees.

There are nine civil wars across the globe where people have been driven out.

Other refugees are escaping poverty in countries where capitalism has wreaked havoc.

What has Britain done to help?

The British government has been forced to shift its position. Under pressure, the Tories are now promising to accept more refugees into Britain.

David Cameron announced on Monday that Britain will let 20,000 Syrian refugees in over the next four and a half years.

And chancellor George Osborne said last Sunday that money from the £12 billion foreign aid budget would be used to help house them.

The fact that the Tories have suddenly found money and resources to help refugees exposes the lie that Britain can’t take any more migrants.

But even now they are fighting to make sure they do as little as possible.

Cameron’s figure of 20,000 evens out to just about 4,000 refugees a year. That’s half a percent of the 800,000 refugees Germany has pledged to accept this year alone.

Why do they keep moving in Europe?

Politicians don’t see why the freedom of movement enjoyed by the rich should extend to those in need. 

They argue that refugees should seek asylum in the first “safe” country they arrive in. 

Many do. The majority of refugees don’t get as far as Europe, let alone Britain. But it isn’t always possible.

When three year old Kurdish child Aylan Kurdi drowned trying to enter Europe, right wingers asked why his family hadn’t stayed in Turkey.

But Syrian refugees in Turkey aren’t allowed to work—and Kurds face brutal repression.

Some refugees want to live in Britain because they speak English, or because they have family here.

Many migrants in the Calais “jungle” have nowhere else to go. European states encourage migrants to move by making the asylum process as difficult as possible.

Violence from police or racist gangs can also force migrants to move on.

Is Britain too poor to take them all?

It’s nonsense that Britain can’t afford to offer support to more migrants.

Chancellor George Osborne has just wasted another £500 million on Trident nuclear weapons, part of a £100 billion total Trident bill. 

Big firms avoid billions in tax. 

Britain’s billionaires have seen their wealth more than double since the recession, with the richest 1,000 now controlling a total of £547 billion. These resources could be used to support far more people.

Would it help if we bombed Syria?

The crisis has led to fresh calls for the British government to launch airstrikes against Isis in Syria. 

But Syrian refugees aren’t just escaping Isis.

The Syrian regime of dictator Bashar al-Assad is responsible for much more destruction—and US-led airstrikes have already caused hundreds of civilian deaths.

War and Western-backed action against the Arab revolutions created Isis in the first place. 

More bombs and intervention can only make things worse.

Are immigration controls racist?

Politicians and the media talk about immigration controls so much it’s no surprise that most 

people think they must be necessary.

But all immigration controls encourage the idea that there are certain groups of people who shouldn’t live here. And that usually means people from eastern Europe, or black and Asian people.

This gives cops and bosses a green light to discriminate against them. It paves the way for racist attacks on people who “don’t belong in Britain”.

Immigration controls are also to blame for the horrors of detention centres such as Yarl’s Wood.

They are designed to divide and rule—and stop us fighting back against the rich and the bosses. 

Trillions of pounds, euros, dollars and yen move round the world at the touch of a computer key every day. 

Why can’t people move too?  Bosses move their resources, close factories and destroy jobs without any barriers. Workers ought to have the right to move anywhere.

But are they all ‘real’ refugees?

Much of the recent debate has focused on the distinction between “refugees” and “migrants”.

And it’s certainly right to emphasise that most of the people currently trying to get into Europe are fleeing war and repression.

Some people have even argued that the term “migrant” is dehumanising and must be avoided.

But it’s important not to fall into the trap of implying that some migrants are more deserving than others.

This can be convenient for some politicians who accept that we should let some refugees in—but keep up the barriers that caused the crisis.

But migration is perfectly natural. 

There is nothing wrong with wanting to move in search of a better life.

People should have the right to live and to work where they want—for whatever reason.

What can we do to support them?

All over Europe people have been supporting refugees by providing supplies.

This is important and must continue. But the way to stop the crisis is to open the borders and let the refugees in. The harder our rulers make it for them to travel, the more they are driven to take more dangerous routes or use traffickers.

The European Union has put walls on its land borders and threatens airlines with fines for carrying refugees.

If restrictions were lifted no one would drown trying to cross the Mediterranean. Join protests saying “Refugees are welcome” near you.

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