Wednesday, 29 April 2015

What should we do with the boat migrants?

Westernized nations are always desirable to migrants who are fleeing less fortunate nations, especially nations that are at war with themselves such as Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Syria. There are other nations at war with terrorists, such as Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia. These migrants don`t want to be killed there either.  I can readily understand why these migrants want to flee those countries.               

However, many escaping migrants are packed into rickety vessels by human traffickers who promise the migrants a better life in Europe and elsewhere. A great many of them crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa or from Syria drown in the Mediterranean when their flimsy boats capsize. Obviously, there are no life jackets on those rubber dinghies or on unsafe slightly larger craft. Further, the vessels are tightly packed and there is little food or water to be shared among the migrants.  

As many as 1,500 migrants have already died trying to cross the Mediterranean this year, which may far exceed the 3,200 people that has been estimated to have died making the journey last year.                               

The death toll from the disaster on April 19, 2015 off the coast of Libya was uncertain but likely to be the highest in modern times among migrants being trafficked in rickety boats across the Mediterranean. Officials said there had been at least 700 people on board a small freighter with most of them were reportedly locked in the hold. When the boat sank, they all drowned. Only those on the deck survived initially and those who couldn’t swim also died. That disaster came days after another wreck was believed to have killed around 400 people who drowned in the sea. In one boat, a fight occurred and one religious group of migrants tossed another group of migrants overboard to their deaths. 

The traffickers are charging the migrants thousands of dollars per person so it is of little consequent to them if their ‘passengers’ drown before they reach their goal. The traffickers have already got their money up front. The loss of a rubber dingy powered by an outboard engine is of little consequence to them. They can purchase more with ease.   

European officials are struggling to come up with a policy to respond more humanely to an exodus of migrants traveling by sea from Africa and Syria to Europe, without worsening the crisis by encouraging more to leave.

This is where the real problem lies. If the migrants believe that even if their boats capsize, there will be European boats nearby ready to rescue them then there is no risk for them if they sail on flimsy boats.    Further, if the would-be migrants hoping to flee their own countries believe that they will be then taken directly to Italy or Greece to live, then thousands upon thousands of migrants will take the risky trip across the sea and flood Italy and Greece with an enormous excess of migrants that will then cost those two countries millions upon millions of Euros housing and feeding them for years if the migrants can’t find employment. More than 21,000 migrants have made the journey so far this year, comparable to 26,000 by the end of April last year. 

Those two countries will also face the prospect of receiving not only criminals but also terrorists who are fleeing their countries along with the other migrants. Further, there is no way that the receiving countries can confirm if they are criminals or terrorists since the countries they are fleeing from are in a shambles. So what is the answer to this very perplexing problem?

There are several countries that have ways to solve this problem. Greece is forcing the migrants in their flimsy craft to turn back to where they came from. This may seem cruel and it is but Greece is suffering from a serious monetary disaster and can’t spare any money to support the migrants who want to land on their shores.

Are they then sending the migrants back to their deaths? Possibly. Those of us who were alive in the 1930s are cognizant of the fact that Canada and the United States refused to accept German Jews who were fleeing Nazi Germany and the prospect of dying in the death camps. Most of them were later gassed in the death camps after their hopes were dashed by the Canadian and the American governments and returned to Germany.  

Even if Greece accepts them on the condition that they can only stay a short time, the migrants may still not later be accepted at the borders of other nations bordering Greece. Then what will happen? They will slip into those countries undetected and then beg or steal to feed themselves and find shelter. Further, so will the criminals and terrorists.

There is increasing concern in Australia with respect to the problem of illegal migrants surreptitiously slipping into that country. Large numbers of visitors from other countries arrive at Australian airports who either have false identities or who receive temporary visas which they then over-stay. These latter entrants arrive with the intention of disregarding any restrictions upon the length of their visits and of submerging themselves in ethnic communities where they are difficult to identify from those who are legitimately living in Australia. For these reasons, there is a swelling accumulation of illegal immigrants in Australia who even if they are discovered, they are difficult to remove in view of the generous legal assistance by the Australian taxpayer in funding legal fees enabling them to oppose extradition. Canada has the same problem as some illegal migrants arrived on planes and others on freighters.

Secondly, the problem of “boat people” has become increasingly obvious. They are aware that Australian immigration laws are weak and for this reason, large numbers of would-be immigrants have contacted traffickers to get them to the shores of Australia by paying, substantial sums to intermediaries who organize the illegal immigration entry into Australia.

Many of these boat people originate from China, Afghanistan and Iraq. When they arrive within the Australian jurisdiction they commonly claim rights of entry as refugees. Again, they are provided with financial resources by the Australian taxpayer to pay the legal costs of arguing their cases—one estimate being the cost of removing an illegal immigrant is, on average, approximately $60,000. Because the relevant government regulations are loose, and because the Federal Court has proved itself to be less reliable than the State Supreme Courts, many illegal immigrants have proved to be undeservedly successful before the Federal Court.

As far as boat people are concerned, it must be appreciated that if Australia continues to have an excessively sympathetic attitude, it will continue to be singled out as a place for illegal immigrant entry. Although one may wish to treat kindly those who are subject to unreasonable or oppressive governments, if the Australians don’t take a firm position then there will be an ongoing expansion of the business of trafficking illegal immigrants to Australia. Those who organize transportation are highly compensated and it would be naive to believe that they can be restrained otherwise than by firm and decisive treatment—such as seizing their boats, arresting them and sentencing them to imprisonment for several years each time they are caught.  

Here is how I propose we deal with boat people. The appropriate course is to have sufficient coast guard vessels to intercept them before they come within waters of the country they are trying to flee to.  They then should be taken aboard the coast guard vessels along with the traffickers who will be immediately arrested. The  migrants should then be taken to the country that were heading for and placed in specially built refugee compounds. 

There are shelters that comprise of three by six metre frames made of snap-together lightweight steel frames that are wind proof , snow resistant and rust-proof. Families can be placed in each of these  and so can a small groups of individuals along with basic furniture.  

These facilities will be surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards. While in the compounds, they will be sheltered, given food and water and treated for any illnesses they may have. Families will be kept together and the men and women who are not married will be separated as far as sleeping quarters are concerned. An armed police force in the compound will keep everything in order. 

Then they will be processed as if they had previously applied for entry into that country. If they qualify, they will be permitted to leave the compound and seek employment elsewhere in that country. If they left their own country and it is established that that country is democratic, it will be presumed that the applicant is only leaving for a better life. In my opinion, trying slip into a country surreptitiously just to get a better life is the sign of criminality and that person should be immediately deported.

When they are returned to their own countries, they will be able to make proper applications for entry ten years later if they choose to do so, either on a normal basis or less as refugees if their country is too violent to live in. It should however be added that the concept of “refugee” should not be construed generously for these purposes. There are many countries where civil rights are more limited where varying degrees of repression exist than in Australia and Canada.

Unfortunate as severe as my position may be for illegal migrants who are simply trying the better their lives, countries shouldn’t have to accept those persons from democratic countries as refugees if they try to sneak into any of the countries they choose to go to.  To do so, the flow of illegal migrants would swell beyond any possibility that they could be assimilated or even be welcome.

Countries that are well off should contribute towards the support of migrants held in the compounds I have written about by sending the money directly to the United Nations who will distribute it to the countries that have migrants in those compounds. Further, the United Nations should give the migrants UN passports that are normally given to homeless refugees so that they will have them when they reach those countries providing those countries that are willing to accept them after they have been properly investigated, making sure they are not listed on Interpol as terrorists or wanted criminals.  

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