FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Problem With the One-for-One Refuge Policy

The ‘one for one’ refugee policy means we’re picking and choosing among desperate people

As the journalist Wolfgang Bauer reminds us, the Syrian people witness the horrors of the Paris and Brussels attacks every single day.

The most relevant newspaper cartoon on the asylum story popped up on the front page of the Irish Times this week, for Martyn Turner’s sketch caught two scandals in one.

On the left hand side was a rich businessman stepping onto a palm-fringed island under the caption: “Since forever, RICH people have been taking their assets offshore to avoid tax…” On the right hand side of the cartoon, refugees in a flimsy rubber boat sail across choppy seas beneath the words: “Since recently POOR people have been taking their assets offshore… Guess which problem we have worked day and night to stop?”

Well, of course, it’s the poor guys who are getting the chop – courtesy of an annual €3bn to the Turks and an easy visa for anyone from Izmir to Iskanderia who wants to take a look at the EU which the refugees risked their lives to reach.

It’s not just that – nor the clever-clogs way in which the EU packed its first boat of returnees with Pakistanis who don’t quite qualify for our pity, and thus couldn’t be seen on our television screens as refugees fleeing for their lives.They all went meekly aboard, guarded by the blue legions of Frontex, that least accountable of all border institutions the EU has yet invented. I’m sure they’re all gentle lads and lasses, but why on earth do they wear these preposterous hygiene masks over their faces when confronted by refugees?

Reporters, NGOs, local villagers apparently feel no need to protect their health from the huddled masses of the Middle East. But the Frontex centurions seem to be in a state of permanent delicate healths. Indeed, like the soldiery and cops of Brussels, it now seem ‘de rigeur’ for any self-respecting European security man to wrap his face up in scarves or hoods. Are we telling the world that the refugees are plague carriers?  Or have the Belgian army and police and Frontex picked up this fashion accessory from Isis itself?

As for the ‘one-for-one’ refugee “exchanges”, as we’ve now been taught to call the whole fandango, what happened to our well-founded concerns about the nature of the state – Turkey – to which we are dispatching immigrants the moment they step ashore on Greek territory?

Sure, the Turks have promised that they will be very correct and pleasant and sweet to all the folk we fling back at them.  But isn’t there a problem with Turkey?  Isn’t this the place where the cops take over newspapers and lock up journalists, and where the army has been slaughtering large numbers of Kurds for decades, and where the president is turning into a miniature Sultan? And where, still – let this not be forgotten – the government does not recognise the Turkish genocide of a million and a half Christian Armenians in 1915?

I imagine that present-day Armenian refugees from Syria will demand a quick transit to Greece – and Syrian Kurds in Greece will request a very slow journey back to Turkey.  I was very struck by the words of French philosophy professor Frederic Worms last month who pointed out that the Turks will somehow ensure that Europe has ‘validated’ the identity of refugees travelling (‘legally’, if that’s the right word) in the other direction.

In other words, we’re already choosing the ones we want from the ones we don’t want.

The ironies and the injustices – and the violence, alas – are still to come. Yet at least there are some prepared to point out the iniquities of the current crisis – and take risks to do so.

Among the latest are German journalist Wolfgang Bauer and Czech photographer Stanislav Krupar whose slim new book, Crossing the Seas:  With Syrians on the Exodus to Europe, is a bleak but deeply revealing expose of the ‘trade’ in refugees. Both men set off from Egypt,  beaten by youthful smugglers on their way to the beach, only to be caught when it turns out that the nightly Egyptian naval patrol has not been paid off by the smugglers. When the same Syrians – without their journalist friends – try the same trip later, the very same patrol boat lets them sail away.

But it’s not just the detail in this book that counts. It’s the anger.

Europe had done nothing to bring the carnage in Syria to an end, Bauer says, and “most European governments…said a no-fly zone and military intervention would just worsen the situation… Hundreds of thousands of people have come to us across the sea and via the Balkans. And now the EU’s interior ministers want to close the borders. None of them have resigned, despite the thousands who have drowned in the Mediterranean in the wake of their mistakes…”

All those who whose strategies led to the greatest disaster since the Second World War “are still working on strategies for the Middle East.”

I don’t buy Bauer’s demand for military action; by funnelling weapons to the bad guys in Syria, we’ve done quite enough “intervening” already. But his conclusion is humbling indeed.

He talks about the horrors of last year’s Paris attacks which, he says, “are endured by the Syrians every single awful day. But we have never been particularly interested in the Syrians’ suffering. We are only interested in our own suffering.” No wonder we are wearing face-masks.

More articles by:

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

April 25, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Selective Outrage
Dan Kovalik
The Empire Turns Its Sights on Nicaragua – Again!
Joseph Essertier
The Abductees of Japan and Korea
Ramzy Baroud
The Ghost of Herut: Einstein on Israel, 70 Years Ago
W. T. Whitney
Imprisoned FARC Leader Faces Extradition: Still No Peace in Colombia
Manuel E. Yepe
Washington’s Attack on Syria Was a Mockery of the World
John White
My Silent Pain for Toronto and the World
Dean Baker
Bad Projections: the Federal Reserve, the IMF and Unemployment
David Schultz
Why Donald Trump Should Not be Allowed to Pardon Michael Cohen, His Friends, or Family Members
Mel Gurtov
Will Abe Shinzo “Make Japan Great Again”?
Binoy Kampmark
Enoch Powell: Blood Speeches and Anniversaries
Frank Scott
Weapons and Walls
April 24, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russia and the War Party
William A. Cohn
Carnage Unleashed: the Pentagon and the AUMF
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
The Racist Culture of Canadian Hockey
María Julia Bertomeu
On Angers, Disgusts and Nauseas
Nick Pemberton
How To Buy A Seat In Congress 101
Ron Jacobs
Resisting the Military-Now More Than Ever
Paul Bentley
A Velvet Revolution Turns Bloody? Ten Dead in Toronto
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Left, Syria and Fake News
Manuel E. Yepe
The Confirmation of Democracy in Cuba
Peter Montgomery
Christian Nationalism: Good for Politicians, Bad for America and the World
Ted Rall
Bad Drones
Jill Richardson
The Latest Attack on Food Stamps
Andrew Stewart
What Kind of Unionism is This?
Ellen Brown
Fox in the Hen House: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
Ted Rall
Stop Letting Trump Distract You From Your Wants and Needs
Steve Klinger
The Cautionary Tale of Donald J. Trump
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Conflict Over the Future of the Planet
Cesar Chelala
Gideon Levy: A Voice of Sanity from Israel
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail