The Prime Minster’s statement to the House of Commons on Monday, September 7, on refugees demonstrated that he and his government are completely out of touch with the sentiment and values of the vast majority of people in Britain. It also demonstrated that any measures that the government may take in regard to refugees from Syria will be undertaken as part of the government’s overall aim of regime change in that country. In this regard it was not at all accidental that the Prime Minster’s statement on refugees was followed immediately by the announcement of the assassination of two British citizens in Syria and the likelihood of more assassinations in the future. Indeed the Prime Minister used both statements to argue the case for more military intervention in Syria, on the basis of Britain’s “self-defence” and hinted that the government would soon again bring this matter before parliament.
David Cameron’s statements have been based on the premise that the government’s aim of regime change in Syria is entirely just and that it is the government of Syria that is responsible for the emergence of the so-called ISIL, rather than Britain and its allies that present themselves as the “friends of Syria”. But the fact is that both the major conflict in Syria and ISIL have been exacerbated beyond all proportion as a consequence of the intervention of Britain, the other big powers and their allies. It is they who have fuelled the civil war, directly and indirectly created the conditions for the emergence of ISIL and created the current crisis that has led to millions of displaced people and millions of refugees.
As the Prime Minister made clear, the British government is one of the major funders of the refugee camps on the borders of Syria, just as it is one of the major funders of the opposition to the Syrian government, and it is from these camps that it intends to admit 20,000 refugees, and that this is not immediate but is ludicrously over the next five years. And even this has been wrung from Cameron kicking and screaming, as he made it clear that the government does not “believe it is right to take part in the European relocation quota because we think that a better answer for Britain … is to take people directly from the camps. In that way we will not encourage more people to make this perilous journey.” As was pointed out during the Commons debate, Germany has taken in 10,000 refugees in one day.
The government’s approach will make no difference to the numbers in the camps, already well over 3 million, nor the numbers of refugees fleeing to Europe, over 300,000 already this year, and Cameron was adamant that the government would not enter into any wider EU agreement regarding refugee quotas. It was also evident that the government had only set aside minimal funding from its “aid” budget for these plans. As Cameron stressed on numerous occasions, “aid” is something that must be used in what he referred to as Britain’s “national interest”. And in the debate he insulted Caroline Lucas’s pledge on behalf of the people of Brighton and Hove as being very willing to accept more refugees provided the government guarantee the funding, as it must, by saying, “I notice that Brighton is very keen to be generous with other people’s money.”
The Prime Minister also had no concern for those seeking refuge from other countries, labelling all those not originating from Syria as “economic migrants” who were “seeking a better life”. It was clear from his statement that those seeking refuge from the consequences of the government’s military intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Libya were not in any way connected with Britain’s “national interest” and were not therefore the subject of the statement. The government takes no responsibility for those who are the victims of the consequences of neo-liberal globalisation, or Britain’s economic and political intervention in Africa, Asia and other parts of the world.
Cameron and his government must be condemned for their stunningly callous indifference to human suffering that is the consequence of the global intervention carried out by successive British governments and their allies, as well as a consequence of neo-liberal globalisation. They must also be condemned for the cynical use of the refugee crisis as a means to further the aim of regime change in Syria. The government must be held to account for these crimes.
The people of Britain and many other countries are showing what it means to uphold enlightened human values in the 21st century, what is required is a government that also upholds such values. It is the task of the workers and all progressive people to continue their struggles to establish such a government, a government based on the sovereignty of the people, an anti-war government. It is this empowerment of the working class and people which will fundamentally resolve the global catastrophes which a social system which is a blight on humankind is giving rise to.