The whole point of this blog is that the posts are meant to be fully referenced and researched, but the way I am with my life at the moment that ain’t going to happen – so I’m doing what all writers who procrastinate should do (and have I procrastinated this morning? Oh boy have I procrastinated!) So yes, instead of saying I’m just not ready or I haven’t got the time – I’m applying the seat of the pants to the chair and writing!

This blog post is going to start with the current refugee situation. And if I say things that some find incredibly obvious it’s because I’m exploring the issue, ok?

Evidently, the French PM Manuel Valls has said in Davos that the refugee crisis is destabilising Europe and putting our (European) societies in grave danger. Is this so? He’s saying this because, according to this article, in the first three weeks of this year 35,000 people have crossed the EU’s borders.

Now this is typical of the fuzziness and superficiality of so many articles I read.   Let’s unpick the numbers and ask a few questions: who are these people; where are they from; where are they going; what will be their reception; and how will they be assimilated?  While I won’t be able to answer those questions in one post, my stance is that for me I have to begin analysing the situation somehow, in more depth.

Apparently there are 19.5 million refugees in a world population of 7 billion, and while 53% of these are from Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia increasing danger, insecurity and human rights concerns in other countries in Africa, Myanmar and Iraq are contributing to a considerable rise in asylum seekers and refugees (see January/February edition of the New Internationalist or website).

But they are not all going to Europe, far from it. For example, 95% of Syrian refugees are currently in just five countries:

  • Turkey
  • Lebanon
  • Jordan
  • Iraq and
  • Egypt

Think of little Lebanon: the country’s surface area is 4,036 sq miles. That’s far less than the size of the UK’s East of England region, which is approximately 7,380 square miles. And yet Lebanon has taken in 1.2 million refugees, that’s 209 refugees per 1000 Lebanon inhabitants.

Meanwhile, (and I bet there are many variations on these stats, but they’re the best I could find) according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) around one million migrants and refugees arrived in Europe up to the end of 2015 – four times more than in 2014. Just a few come by land (34,215); most came by sea of which the vast majority arrived in Greece (816,752). Half of those crossing the Mediterranean were from Syria.   And what’s more, IOM estimated that a total of 3,692 migrants and refugees lost their lives in the Mediterranean in 2015 – over 400 more than in 2014.

So, Europe as a whole, has nearly, but not quite yet received as many people as tiny Lebanon. That’s Europe measuring 3,930,000 square miles in comparison to Lebanon’s 7,000 or so square miles – interesting.

And this for me, makes the 20,000 Syrians that the UK will be taking over 5 years seem a number that is a trifle puny.

What I have been saying over and over on Facebook, and to anyone else that is interested, that the EU should take a position on this, and that there should be a coordinated and systematic process for refugees. Furthermore, there should be safe passage for refugees – allow them to come by air, please. This is a humanitarian crisis.   But there seems only disinformation, displeasure on the part of politicians that people are in need, and a disgraceful lack of care for people.

Now apparently the EU is thinking of asking Greece to ‘push back’ refugees that arrive via Turkey. Can I remind everyone how many that might mean – over 800,000 in 2015, so how? And anyone helping these refugees, including local people; tourists; and the small groups of volunteers who come out to Greece and pull people from the sea could face criminal charges.  If that becomes ratified – I cannot, ever, think well of the EU again.

But I feel I’m getting on my high horse, and this blog is not for that, so that’s all for now – yes, it’s a short post but I don’t aim to overwhelm with stats and opinions. I intend simply to ask questions and unpick statements. The next post will explore how many refugees Europe could take.

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2 thoughts on “Here goes!

  • July 25, 2016 at 3:36 pm
    Permalink

    Penny,
    This is the first post of the new blog I have read. I have wondered when I was going to find it. While I want to read it again before I move on to the rest, as you really do have stats and facts among your own thoughts and questions, I hope you will continue with this sort of writing as what I would truly value, not lliving in Britain, is what one intelligent, clearly spoken person can tell me about what happened to lead up to what we now know as Brexit–which from Canada, looking on, seems to be mainly a fear of immigrants and refugees. I have inadvertenty irritated some of my British cousins, both for and against Brexit, with questions I had posed to provide me with some information other than the dramatic news/ entertainment hours (yes, even from BBC World) which now pretend to serve as unbiased facts. Even the music leading up to the news, and the alarming tone of newscasters’ voices gets one’s adrenalin surging. (And consider us Canadians, also barraged with that scurrilous Presidential election going on below the border.) Over and over, I read from the USA that our Prime MInister will not allow refugees in, will not allow Trump in, etc. It appears anyone can write anything and call it news. However, we also see the videos of him greeting the refugees personally as they arrive. Yes, they are put through a very tight screening process before they are put on planes, and the first planes were full of women and children, but gradually entire families are arriving. And no, of course we don’t have boatloads landing on our shores. I merely suggest that we can still all (possibly through the UN or something like it) do a better job, and weed out young activists while still providing humanitarian options for genuine refugees.

    One can only hope.

    Thank you for this excellent start to your new blog, for your insight, and for your questions.

    Best,
    Margaret

    Reply
    • July 25, 2016 at 4:09 pm
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      Thank you so much Margaret. I mean first of all, this blog is helping me to order my thoughts. There’s so much information and mis-information out there – and someone rather whimsically said that we now live in an era of ‘post-fact politics’. Hmmm, and yes. The debate around the question of refugees as opposed to immigrants is totally muddied and muddled and full of opinions and feelings. The state has to defend its interests and yet hold out a helping hand to those in need (actually not much of that around apart from, maybe Canada?) As for Brexit – do read through my posts as I’m still very much finding my way. But the more I think about it, the more I feel that to have ‘remained’ was just more of us being stuck in the same old neo-liberal mire. However to have ‘left’ is casting us into the unknown – and the politicians have been shown up for the charlatans they are as they had no plans for leaving whatsoever. No-one has come out of the referendum well. And I’ll be watching that Theresa May very closely , as she talks the talk but whether she actually helps the ‘poor’ is another matter.

      It’s great to know you’re reading my thoughts on this, Margaret. Thank you.

      Reply

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