Politics

Channel deaths reflect the moral rot of Britain and France


This is not a ‘migrant crisis’; this is a crisis of inhumanity.

There is something uniquely vile about watching British and French politicians blame one another and traffickers as migrants and refugees drown in the cold waters of the English Channel. But what is even colder than those murky waters is the blood that runs through these politicians’ veins – the sheer inhuman indifference to the images of desperate men, pregnant women, and even children gasping for their last breaths as they are pulled underneath to a watery grave, far from their families, friends, and loved ones.

That is the fundamental point that one needs to ground themselves in before casting judgments on these people – no one risks their children on perilous voyages and journeys unless where they came from was far worse. The fact that many Western politicians cannot come to grips with that basic notion shows we are not suffering from a migrant crisis at all, but we are in fact suffering from a crisis of inhumanity.

The mirage of Western moral leadership

According to most reports, 27 people drowned in the incident on Wednesday, including three children and a pregnant woman. No doubt, that woman had a desperate hope that her unborn child would be born and live in this fabled land known as “the West”, where human rights are respected, where the rule of law means something, and where everyone has the chance to make a life for themselves. Instead, both up to and after her death, she met nothing but cold indifference and meaningless platitudes.

Before any frothing-at-the-mouth racists who are reading the preceding paragraph seek my expulsion from the United Kingdom and for my British nationality to be snatched away, let me be clear – there is much to admire about the West and I am very happy to call it my home. But let us also be clear that the West does not refrain from lecturing the rest of the world on the very rights and high standards that compel people from all over the globe to come here.

I have often had people ask me, “Why don’t they build up their own countries rather than come here?” At face value, that is a perfectly valid question. However, the answer is often a multi-faceted indictment of the West, which, in its avarice and lust for power, either annihilated the countries where the majority of these people come from, or directly or indirectly support tyrannical regimes and then stand back as the population is brutalised and killed.

Take Iraq, for example, the source of the second highest number of refugees in 2020, according to the British Home Office. There can be no doubt that the United Kingdom played a pivotal role in the chaotically violent mess that is modern Iraq -and  Britain’s malignant role in the country goes back even further, to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

Having contributed the second largest military force after the United States in the 2003 invasion, and having been implicated in war crimes and crimes against humanity concerning the Iraqi people, it is somewhat rich to now hear the British complaining that a few thousand Iraqis are now seeking to claim asylum in the UK without having the temerity to “follow the proper channels” first. The home country of millions was reduced to rubble, but don’t you dare show up in the land that brought that destruction to you.

Consider Syria, the source of another large proportion of asylum seekers. The West has categorically failed the Syrian people and allowed the monstrous dictator Bashar al Assad to displace millions and kill hundreds of thousands of his own people. Former US President Barack Obama drew clear red lines on Assad’s chemical weapons use, and then did absolutely nothing when Assad gassed innocent civilians, condemning them to a fate perhaps worse than that which befell the tragic souls who recently drowned in the Channel. 

In light of such horrors, why are those who arrogantly tell people suffering in Asia and Africa to be more like them surprised when those people come here to see what all the fuss is about? This is not moral leadership and superiority; rather it is moral rot, decay, and an inability to take responsibility.

Both France and the UK are to blame

Concerning the 27 who tragically drowned, their deaths serve to highlight how neither France nor the UK want to deal with their obligations as dictated by international law.

There is a misconception that migrants and refugees must seek asylum in the first country they land in. Under international law, asylum seekers have the right to apply to seek refuge in any country they reach. That misconception stems from the fact that a EU-wide agreement led to a law that outlined how the European Union, as a supranational body, handled asylum seekers. The UK most certainly shot itself in the foot when it voted for Brexit, as it is no longer part of that agreement.

As such, the majority of asylum seekers who are intercepted between Calais in France and Dover in the UK are caught within the sea borders of either country, and not in international waters. In other words, one of these countries has to take responsibility for the asylum seekers and start to process their applications.

However, anti-immigrant sentiment has led to some politicians such as the hardline Tory Home Secretary Priti Patel – herself the daughter of Indian migrants – advocating for the dystopian if fantastical use of artificial wave machines to create a tidal push that forces asylum seekers away from British waters and keeps them in France. Her megalomania would be laughable were it not for the fact that she is deadly serious about preventing people like her parents from reaching England, consequences be damned.

If Patel is an exemplar of the modern British political class, then we have a lot to be worried about, and not just for ourselves but for future generations. We do not live in an ideal world, but ideally politicians ought to be moral standard bearers, ready to do the right thing and lead by example.

Instead, we keep hearing about how the West is suffering from a migrant crisis to the tune of millions of souls. The reality is that the ¨crisis¨ is thousands of desperate people causing a political and social meltdown in European politics. This despite the fact that the brunt of hosting refugees is actually borne by countries neighbouring warzones.

The West ought to be ashamed of itself. What is becoming clearer by the day is that we are not suffering from a migrant crisis at all. Instead we are in the midst of a crisis of inhumanity, where a callous indifference to human suffering, fuelled by racism and the expectation that others shoulder our legal and moral obligations, is becoming the norm. That is not a world I want my children to grow up in and inherit, and I expect anyone with an ounce of humanity in their souls feels the same.

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of TRT World.

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Source: TRT World



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