Britain and Other Big Powers Must Accept Responsibility for
Global Refugee Crisis which They Themselves Have Created
The Cameron government appears to be increasingly isolated for its approach to the refugee crisis affecting Europe, a crisis that it, and its predecessors and allies are largely responsible for creating. The government still maintains that it has no responsibility for the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing from Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and many other countries where British governments and those of the other big powers have intervened militarily, or by other means created war, instability and poverty.
In an interview with The Guardian, Prime Minister David Cameron spoke in response to questions concerning the now viral photo of Aylan Kurdi, the drowned Syrian child refugee lying dead on a Turkish beach. Cameron made great efforts to explain that his government had provided refuge for “a number of genuine asylum seekers from Syrian refugee camps”, a number known to be 216. Cameron’s response, implying that there are also in existence asylum seekers and refugees from the Syrian conflict that the government considers not to be genuine, has provoked public outrage. The public concern over the horrendous humanitarian tragedy has sparked a wave of“refugees welcome” demonstrations and manifestations. This concern, together with the pressure from other EU members, appears to have shamed David Cameron into promising that Britain will accept “thousands” more Syrian refugees. A shift is also seen in the reporting of the crisis, with a recognition that this is a refugee crisis, not an issue of “economic migrants”, as the government and its spokespeople had been intent on insisting.
However, Cameron also argued that for the government, which has continued its predecessor’s policy of destabilising Syria, “the most important thing is to try to bring peace and stability to that part of the world”. There is no doubt that peace and stability is what is required, but it has been intervention by Britain and its allies in what was originally an internal Syrian conflict which has led to over 7 million people being displaced and over 4 million refugees, as well as hundreds of thousands of deaths. It is therefore difficult to see how a policy of destabilising the government of Syria and supporting those who are fighting against it is likely to bring “peace andstability” to that country. As for accepting refugees from Syria, Cameron’s inhumane stance has been starkly put into perspective by the statistics that there are over 2 million people who have fled from Syria who are currently present in Turkey, and other European countries have refugees numbered in the thousands and hundreds of thousands.
According to the government it is doing everything possible to avert the global refugee crisis. In this regard the Prime Minister stated, “We are taking action right across the board, helping countries from which these people are coming, stabilising them and trying to make sure there are worthwhile jobs and stronger economies there.” But where and how is the government taking such action? Certainly not through the bombing and destabilisation of Libya, which has brought complete anarchy to that country, at least two rival governments and increased instability across North Africa and the Sahel. Clearly not by military intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine or Kosovo, countries that are also producing thousands of refugees, nor by championing neo-liberal globalisation and its Eurocentric values around the world, which has forced millions of people to seek their livelihoods abroad.
In response to the global crisis of some 60 million displaced people and refugees the main response of the government has been to dehumanise those in need, spread disinformation about the crisis, and do everything possible to develop security measures to keep vulnerable people at arms length, preferably in France. It is an approach that is now coming under sustained assault. There has been condemnation of the government’s approach from the Catholic Church, the prospective leaders of the Labour Party, as well as Conservative backbenchers and local councillors, the Refugee Council and other organisations. There is no doubt that people are shocked not only by the images presented in the media but also by the callousness and inhumanity of the government’s response.
The government must be condemned for its refusal to do more to take responsibility for the global refugee crisis. It has insulted public opinion in its crassly in-humanitarian attitude in treating as less than human beings those who are refugees from war zones and tragic situations. The aggressive, unjust, racist and militaristic actions of the neo-liberal establishment has created the conditions for these crises. Military intervention, the use of force and an illegal policy of regime change carried out by Britain and the other big powers have created a global crisis and only the cessation of all such intervention can resolve matters. It is the task of the workers and all democratic people to play the leading role in bringing stability and people-centred values to the world by creating the conditions for a pro-people anti-war government.