When left and right bicker, their refugee hopes flicker

With both parties engaging in ideological sparring, we must find a pragmatic consensus

Women and children among Syrian refugees striking at the platform of Budapest Keleti railway station. Refugee crisis. Budapest, Hungary, Central Europe, 4 September 2015.

Image: Mystyslav Chernov

Europe is in crisis. Upheaving dictator after dictator without any strategies for reconstruction has left the Middle East seething in bloodthirsty chaos. With the explosive growth of ISIS and carnage in South Sudan and Syria, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimated there were 65.3 million displaced citizens in 2015. This crisis demands a humanitarian response.

How we honour our commitments to others not only forms who we are, but fundamentally shapes our future. The way our elected politicians respond to this crisis will define westerners for decades. Yet the responses from both the right and left are inadequate, if not dangerously insane.

The influx has piled pressure upon European welfare-states and amounted to a conflict of values. The right’s response has been a nationalist reassertion. German Neo-Nazis are back. The Alternative für Deutschland declare Islam incompatible with Germany, and 726 criminal attacks on German refugee camps have occurred this year. Sweden accepted 163,000 refugees, bankrupting the nation. Foreign Policy estimate the bill will double Sweden’s 2015 $100 billion budget.

In disgusting revolt, the paramilitary vigilantes Soldiers of Odin attacked immigrants throughout Scandinavia. Even in Austria, the far-right Norbert Hofer almost won a presidential election. Hofer is known as the European Donald Trump.

And of course there is the man himself – Trump. Trump signifies a tribal worldview that manifests itself through bullyboy patriotism. For all his messianic blustering, Trump’s policies are Politics for Dummies. Walls and blanket bans on Muslims, instead of vetting processes that admit respectful citizens. He demonises without recognising the character and worth that individual immigrants can bring to his country. It’s what terrorists want: to sow division and violence instead of building human commonality between cultures. Under the right, westerners will define themselves as failing our duty to aid dispossessed and war-broken refugees.

However, the right’s monopoly on the refugee crisis debate has been assured only by the left’s refusal to engage with the issue. Fearing being branded xenophobic themselves, politically correct zealots dismiss genuine concerns as xenophobia.

In reaction to the onslaught of terrorism and sexual violence in Cologne, Stockholm and Vienna, the mainstream left offers nothing but sentimental diatribes against ‘climates of hatred’. Left-wing commentators disgrace the victims of these crimes with their righteous disregard. Now Jeremy Corbyn advocates an entry of 20,000-25,000 per year, with no regard for the financial demands of helping refugees, or the brutality their presence can unleash.

Under the left, westerners will define themselves as naïve fantasists and, ultimately, fail in our obligations to these ravaged people. Neither right nor left have offered satisfactory answers.

A coordinated response that distinguishes between refugees and economic migrants, and legal transportation for both over the Mediterranean is ethically sound. We can’t accept 65.3 million refugees into the west, but we can take some, and teach them the host nation’s language so we can communicate, and thus recognise our mutual humanity.

We can define ourselves with dignity in this crisis, without destroying ourselves.

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