And they all lived happily ever after.
Once upon a time, there was an archetype. The young lad who leaves his home and braves all to seek his fortune. We could call him Dick Whittington.
Today there are millions (or should that be billions?) with dreams of betterment. For many in the poorer parts of the world, one such dream is of the streets of Europe or America, paved with gold. No doubt a few will make their fortunes, while many will be disappointed. Many will risk life and limb in the pursuit of a Dick Whittington dream. Our meeja and public opinion will swing between being swamped by immigrants and being outraged by their plight.
What should we in destination-countries do? I have no intention of addressing issues of immigration policy here, but one thing is clear: we should not be sending out misleading signals, leading people on with a deception. Even when it’s also self-deception. If we’re not going to welcome the millions, we should send out the signal loud and clear and without ambiguity. And above all, we should be consistent, not chop and change policy on the whims of meeja and public opinion.
Yesterday’s scenes of refugees reaching a true fairytale conclusion to their long ordeal is no doubt a happy one for the individuals concerned. But it begs the question: how many million impoverished Africans who may have idly dreamed of seeking their fortune in Europe, just saw yesterday’s scenes and made their minds up to set out on a perilous quest? Unless we welcome them all (which of course we can’t – not even those who survive and make it as far as pick-up points such as those off the Libyan coast), we’ve just perpetrated a cruel deception on them. For a change, our own Prime Minister appears to be behaving better than what either our meeja or some of our European colleagues are trying to pressure him into.