EU obligations to Med-migrants

I have had a couple of recent outings on BBC Radio Scotland’s Call Kaye phone-in show, on the UK’s obligations – and Scotland’s in particular – toward the “Med-migrants”. My line, I am almost sorry to say, was that we will probably need to be cruel to be kind….


My first assumption is that the Middle East and Africa (let alone points further east) have literally millions of people who will do almost anything to get in Europe (though many might have preferred the US or Australia had they been nearer or friendlier).

My second assumption is that even if the EU (in the privacy of the ballot box) was much more well-disposed toward immigration than I believe it to be, Europe will let in at most a tiny fraction of would-be immigrants.

My third assumption is that Scotland has so far taken in much smaller proportion of the UK’s inflow of immigrants (and, actually of non-white immigration) than has England.
The evidence for that is here:
and here is a good link to the UK’s Office of National Statistics on UK immigration

From all that I derive various conclusions.

First. Scottish politicians may find it relatively easy to argue for immigration granted that their electorates have experienced rather less of it than their English counterparts. (A smaller but perhaps important point is that SNP politician may enjoy driving any handy wedge between England and EU, the better to play to their narrative of Scotland’s general niceness; its superior Europhilia; and to boost a Ukip dissidence against the Tories.)

Second. A policy which looks kind, liberal and Christian may allow a very limited number of immigrants into the EU, or England or Scotland, especially those fished out of the Mediterranean. But it will hardly dent the flow, and it will advertise the EU as a “soft target”.

Third. Sooner or later the EU will slam the door in the face of the immigrant flow. It may be that a little kindness now will store up a greater cruelty for the future.

A fourth, unpleasant, point to make is that it would be at least odd to choose which immigrants to let in to the EU on the basis that those that can pay criminal gangs to dump them in mid-Mediterranean are clearly those who most need to migrate.

A fifth, important and kinder point to make is that the EU can produce policies which are sustainable: these would include helping those displaced by civil wars, or those seeking a better economic life, and doing so much nearer to their original homes.



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Publication date

14 May 2015