The leftâ€™s well attested to (by the left) compassion for refugees often ends up not being very compassionate at all.
For example, many of the children that Great Britain takes from the migrant camp at Calais (â€œthe Jungleâ€) are not really children in any meaningful sense of the word â€“ like the very child-like gentleman on the photo above â€“ but young adults simply trying to sneak into the UK, taking advantage of Britainâ€™s, thereâ€™s that word again, compassion. True, life can be tough in the developing world (â€œA Home Office spokesman told Mail Online the children may look older because fleeing war zones had probably toughened them up so theyâ€™ve grown up a bit quickerâ€™.â€). But arguably, if youâ€™re sporting a moustache or have crowâ€™s feet around your eyes, perhaps the spot youâ€™re taking as a child more properly belongs to what most people would think of as a child, somewhere between 0 and the early teens.
In the words of aid workers quoted by the newspaper, â€œThose at the front of the queue are not the most needy and vulnerable â€“ they are adults pretending to be childrenâ€¦ I know there are vulnerable kids, kids with epilepsy, who are still here that have family in the UK they could be with right now. Itâ€™s a shambles.â€
British Home Office merely conducts a visual inspection of the intake to ascertain whether they are children. Medical and dental tests, which would correctly and accurately determine the age of these young people, are not performed because they are too â€œintrusiveâ€. Even with the basic visual assessment, the official figures show that (in this sample in a year up to September 2015) two thirds of the â€œchildrenâ€ whose â€œchildnessâ€ was queried turned out not to be children at all.
And so, once again, the compassion is taken advantage of and real children in the camps are missing out because older people are taking their places. God help us if the Home Office was in charge of evacuating â€œTitanicâ€.
All this reminds me of a conundrum about the left and the refugees that after more than twenty years of observing politics I still canâ€™t get my head around.
The left generally doesnâ€™t like it when rich people can buy their way and get special treatment. Whether itâ€™s health or education or any other public and community services, the left is a champion of equal access for all, particularly those poor/underprivileged, who should not miss out because they canâ€™t afford it while someone else can. â€œEducation for all, not just the richâ€ is one slogan I remember very well from my university days; we can all think of countless other examples.
Yet when it comes to the refugee policy, this egalitarian and compassionate approach goes out the window. Whether itâ€™s people turning up in boats on Australiaâ€™s doorstep to claim refugee status, or the waves of migrants from the Middle East and Africa arriving at the German border, having crossed hundreds, if not thousands, of kilometres of sea and land, the cry goes out from the left: â€œRefugees welcome!â€ â€œLet them all in!â€
Many, sometimes most, of them are not refugees as defined by the relevant UN Convention, merely economic migrants seeking better life in the West. But assume for the sake of argument that all those tens of thousands of arrivals in Australia and millions in Europe are all genuine refugees. What the left is really arguing by â€œletting them all inâ€ is that a self-selected group of refugees â€“ those generally younger and fitter and healthier as well as wealthier, who can afford anywhere between $5000 and $30,000 to pay people smugglers and/or own transport to get to their chosen destination â€“ should be given precedence over all the other refugees in the world who are looking for a new, safe home. In fact, the left is arguing that these people, these refugees, should be allowed to in effect jump the queue and take the limited places available in the refugee intake at the expense of those who are too young, too old, too ill, too scared and too poor to leave the refugee camps in the Middle East or Africa and travel long distances and turn up on Australiaâ€™s â€“ or Europeâ€™s â€“ doorstep.
How is it fair â€“ and how is it really compassionate â€“ that a widow with two children, who escaped with her life and nothing else, and is now rotting for the fifth straight year in a camp somewhere in Jordan or in Kenya, has to keep living there indefinitely, because an endless stream of 25-year old males with $20,000 to spare effectively keep buying their way into the Western countries, taking the refugee places that under any fair and just and compassionate system should at some stage become available to her and her children? Never mind that on top of all that the widow has actually done right by the Refugee Convention â€“ she has sought refuge in the first safe country after escaping her own, has registered herself with the UNHCR, and is patiently waiting for a new home somewhere overseas. The â€œqueue jumpersâ€, on the other hand, even if they are as genuine refugees as the widow, are engaging in a destination shopping; they have left the first safe country of refuge, travelled through several other safe countries, and have now simply turned up in Australia, or Germany or France, where they (unsurprisingly) actually want to live. They have not only taken the decision out of the hands of the widow, they have also taken the decision out of the hand of the United Nations refugee agency, which is charged with the orderly oversight of tens of millions of refugees around the world.
How is that fair? How is that compassionate?
For two decades no one on the left has been able to answer me that question.
The best I can get is a response along the lines of â€œwell, I think we should be taking more refugees â€“ both those who turn up and those from the campsâ€.
Again, a very compassionate sentiment, but it forgets that there are at the moment 65.3 million forcibly displaced persons in the world, of which 21.3 million are registered refugees. I havenâ€™t gone around refugee camps and done a vox populi but Iâ€™m guessing that most of them would love an opportunity to live in Australia or Great Britain or the United States. How many should Australia take? 20,000 a year? 50,000? 200,000? You canâ€™t take them all and you have to draw a line somewhere. But remember, wherever you draw that line, even if you double or triple the current intake, there will always be enough of the healthy and wealthy â€œqueue jumpersâ€ (what I call â€œbusiness refugeesâ€) to take up the entire intake â€“ the widow will always miss out â€“ unless you stop queue jumping completely, like the Australia has now done twice (first under Howard and now under Abbott/Turnbull) and European countries are increasingly and belatedly trying to imitate, and make sure that everyone â€“ regardless of their financial and other circumstances â€“ has an equal chance to come here.
This is the only fair, and the only truly compassionate refugee system.