We have a moral duty to welcome people fleeing to Europe

I’m catching up on telly. Last night I watched the first episode of Simon Reeve’s Greece series. It was a corker. You can see it on BBC iPlayer for a further 6 days.

I’m quite a fan of Simon Reeve. He’s evolved from being a sort of back-packing TV reporter into an intelligent and compassionate observer of the world. His programmes are part-light travelogue, part-incisive documentary.

What made his first Greece show so good was his visit to Lesvos. We’ve all seen the news clips of refugees/asylum seekers/economic migrants coming ashore there. But Reeve’s film was different. You got a bit longer to watch one particular boat gradually bobbing along in the water, then coming ashore. Then we see Simon Reeve talking to some of the passengers. The result was very powerful. The film emphasized the vulnerable nature of the boats – so low in the water – and their precarious voyage across such a vast piece of water, for a charge of $1000 per person. Poor old Reevesy broke down in tears as he talked to a Syrian family who came ashore. One man had nothing but the clothes he stood in and a mobile phone. Extraodinarily, there were no officials or police on the shore as the boats came ashore. The refugees/asylum seekers/economic migrants simply came ashore, dumped their lifebelts and started walking to the nearest town to catch a ferry to Athens. And we saw the remarkable juxtaposition of a tourist town on the island – tourists enjoying the tavernas alongside migrants walking with exhaustion to the ferry quay.

Remarkable.

It all emphasized to me that the migrant crisis is something we must respond generously to. It’s a moral issue. There is no room for being mealy-mouthed. Europe must club together to welcome these people.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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11 Comments

  • If they arrive in Lesvos then they are fleeing Turkey. A Nato member, signatory to the ECHR and aspirant EU member.

  • Sounds like Angela Merkel’s “You are all welcome”. Which is what created the present crisis in its ugly form.

  • Come one, come all. Syrians. Afghans. North Africans. Pakistanis. Any more? Paul welcomes you all.

  • David Evershed 4th Mar '16 - 11:57am

    Why are people fleeing Turkey to get to Greece?
    Are they being persecuted in Turkey?

    Why are people trying to flee France to come to the UK?
    Are they being persecuted in France?

    Why is it mostly young men who are fleeing their home African and Middle Eastern countries?

  • “Why are people fleeing Turkey to get to Greece?”
    Turkey does not recognise their status as refugees. They have no legal right to stay in Turkey or to work there.

    “Why are people trying to flee France to come to the UK?”
    Generally because they speak english and they have family or other connections to the UK. For example I saw one man interviewed in Calais who had worked as an interpreter for the British army in Afghanistan.

    ” Why is it mostly young men who are fleeing their home African and Middle Eastern countries?”
    Apart from the obvious reason that young men are the most likely to attempt such a dangerous and difficult journey ? It is young men who are most in danger of being forcibly conscripted into jihadi militias or other factions.

  • Katerina Porter 4th Mar '16 - 2:25pm

    Anyway it is a legal as well as a moral duty. In Calais Britain has set up a process for checking applicants but it seems to work with no urgency. Unaccompanied children with family in the UK, the Afghan interpreter Andrew R refers to, who was at great risk in Afghanistan and whom the senior British officer interviewed on Channel 4 identified as having gone well beyond the line of duty and to whom some British soldiers owe their lives. It does look like deliberate delay, presumably due to a fear of UKIP. And when we next need local people to work for us in other difficult situations it may be much more difficult to find those prepared to take risks on our behalf because our reputation will be damaged, and in some parts of the world people have very long memories.

  • The whole approach to the migrant crisis is insane. From the article it’s $1,000 per person just for the short sea crossing to Greece. A cheap flight from Istanbul to Berlin is +/- £100. So why are we asking people to risk their lives, spend all their savings, put themselves into the hand of criminals, strengthen criminal networks etc.?

    I suggest it’s just because no-one in power has the imagination or courage to change the outdated approach to controlling migration, which is to say if you turn up you are more or less ‘in’ – whether you are a genuine refugee, an immigrant looking for a better life or a war criminal fleeing justice. It cannot continue like that in a world where vastly cheaper and communications have shrunk distance. For once, uniquely, I have to say that Cameron’s idea of selecting people at or near source is nearer the mark.

    Also FWIW the much of the trouble is the UK-backed US policy of overthrowing regimes that stand in the way of their global hegemony. By what right do we repeatedly interfere in other countries?

  • Jayne Mansfield 6th Mar '16 - 8:05am

    ‘ We have a moral duty to welcome people fleeing to Europe.’

    Yes Paul, I agree.

    There are some situations where the first act must be to save life and offer safety to those in danger.

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