Migration

I am writing this 10,500 miles away, in Sydney.  I am here to launch the Asia-Pacific Network of the Global TB Caucus, an initiative I set up last year to mobilise action to fight tuberculosis, a disease that claims 4,000 lives a day.

Yet the news here on the far side of the world seemed astonishingly local.  The TV bulletins led with the tragedy of the Shoreham air crash.  Now they are reporting problems in Europe as we struggle to deal with migrants and refugees.

Australia has faced the problem of migrants and refugees arriving by sea for some years.  To prevent tragic deaths on boat journeys, the country has adopted a tough policy of processing asylum claims offshore.

The scenes in Europe of desperate people, often exploited by people trafficking criminals, risking and sometimes losing their lives in container lorries or on overcrowded boats, has upset many of my constituents.

The line between economic migrants - those in search of a better life - and refugees - those fleeing persecution - is often hard to draw.

But even if every economic migrant is turned away, the UN Refugee Agency says that last year nearly 20 million people globally fled from persecution or armed conflict, and that 4 million Syrians are now refugees.

We should not turn our backs on those fleeing for their lives.  Equally, no country can simply open its borders to allow unlimited migration.  These principles must apply.

First, we need limits on migration, so that we can balance the economic advantages against pressure on communities and services. 

Second, we must have proper border controls.  The UK's decision not to participate in the EU's Schengen Agreement, which opens borders between participating countries, looks as wise as not joining the euro.

Third, we should help genuine asylum seekers, those for whom it would be too dangerous to return home.

Fourth, we should take more action to tackle the problems at source, whether it is through promoting economic development in poorer countries, providing relief, or being ready to intervene to prevent humanitarian disasters.

There are no easy answers to these problems.  But open borders, and a failure of resolve to confront those who persecute innocent people, has made them worse.


Document type

Articles

Published

3 September 2015

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