The heartbreaking photo of Aylan Kurdi, the dead 3 year old refugee washed up on a beach in Turkey, should shock the world into finally tackling the migrant ‘crisis’. It won’t, of course. Similar to the death of homeless man Jonathan Corrie in Dublin last December, there will be genuine outrage but the problem will continue because the political will isn’t there to really resolve problem such as these. Most countries will be embarrassed into reluctantly accepting slightly more refugees than they had already agreed to. Positive noises will be made about tackling the crisis ‘humanely’ but reducing the flow of refugees and reinforcing border controls will be the primary reaction of the European countries. The cause of the problems - western interference in countries, poverty, civil war – requires a political solution but the worldwide dominant neo-liberal ideology will not allow the root causes to be tackled.
Syria is a good example of a country which never had a history of migration until the Saudis, Turks, U.S. and other western powers began to interfere in the internal affairs of this country. The Salafist fundamentalists, led by the Saudis, were determined to overthrow the secular Syrian Government. While the Assad Government certainly couldn’t be described as democratic and the uprising had genuine support among sections of the population, a cabal of countries such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the US and Iran are taking advantage of the situation for their own benefit. In a country of 23 million people, 4 million have been forced to flee and another 7 million have been displaced internally. Western military interference in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya etc… over the years have added to the problem.
Anti-immigration sentiment, fanned by some politicians and sections of the media, has been spreading across Europe. Ireland hasn’t been immune. Increasingly we have heard calls for us to “look after our own” before allowing more refugees into the country. The reality of this argument can be seen in the photo of Aylan Kurdi.
However, in the austerity scarred working class communities, it is understandable that the existing population will see increased immigration as a threat to the already scarce resources available locally. Local communities know that immigrants will be dumped into those areas which can least afford to accommodate them. We see the homeless crisis continuing to get worse despite the political promises and we know that the current Government do not have the interest or political will to help their own citizens so what hope would there be of extra resources for communities accepting increased immigration. The liberals who declare that ‘refugees are welcome here’ are being disingenuous and insulting to the very communities who will have to accommodate any increase in immigration.
Ireland must play its part in alleviating the immediate refugee crisis. We must accept a fair number of these human beings fleeing all types of terror and poverty. But we must also ensure that the working class communities expected to house the migrants are properly resourced to do so. Despite what some would have us believe, Ireland is still a very wealthy country. The real question to be asked is why this wealth is not being distributed amongst those who really need it, both native and migrant.