This is the first article in a Friday series about the refugee crisis facing Europe.
Here in Sicily, we get no choice over the refugees we take in. In these hot, dusty border countries where the EU looks out upon that scary place known as The Third World, we fish them out of the sea and take all of them. Meanwhile some other countries in Europe are “refugee shopping”.
Angela Merkel of Germany is handling this refugee crisis like a profit-savvy human resources manager. She is accepting Syrians – Syrians who have made it across Europe. That takes grit, it takes money, and it takes good health. She has decided to take on the fittest of the fit, and what she has ended up with is Syria’s middle class. She’s got a refugee influx of doctors, teachers, bankers, of literate people who would sacrifice all they have for their children’s education.
You can tell the kind of Syrians Germany is choosing because they are turning up with suitcases and mobile phones.
Merkel has taken the pick of the crop and come off looking like a saint.
Meanwhile David Cameron of Britain is handling this crisis like a man in fear of losing even more votes to UKIP, the UK Independence Party which wants to leave the European Union, and a man running scared of a Brexit from the European Union in 2017. He wants to stop more foreigners entering Britain, because EU membership already means Britain has no control over the number of East Europeans who have moved to Britain and caused a surge in the level of competition for jobs and affordable housing. They have topped a million already and Cameron knows he has lost many votes to UKIP for this reason.
Above all, he wants to clear the very large numbers of would-be immigrants to Britain camped out at Calais. They break into lorries bringing food and other supplies to British shops to try to sneak into Britain. Once you are hidden in a truck full of food, where do you pee and poo? British shops are throwing away 3 million pounds worth of contaminated food every day. The checks of each lorry, looking for illegal immigrants, are causing tailbacks miles long around Calais.
Cameron knows that he faces revolt in Britain if he doesn’t send out a clear message that camping out at Calais is not the way to enter Britain. He also knows that a very large number of the people trying to enter Britain this way are not refugees at all.
So what has David Cameron done? He has said he is not taking the people who make it across Europe to Britain. He will go to the camps around the borders of Syria and pick out the weakest of the weak, the most vulnerable and the most in need of help. He’s not welcoming the young men of military service age and of ISIL terrorist age; he’s welcoming the orphans and the old ladies.
So Cameron is not going after the valuable human resources, he’s going for the refugees who will evoke maximum compassion from his own electorate.
President Obama jumped on the PR bandwagon yesterday by declaring that he will take 10,000 Syrians next year, too. His strategy is nothing more than an inadequate attempt to look like a decent person. he doesn’t have to shop for specific Syrians. He’s taking in so few, who cares?
So far the United States has only taken in 1,500. Yes, that’s the country which has been dropping a few bombs on Syria over the last few years. It’s the country with the highest GDP in the world and one of the lowest population densities in the world. If you made every single person in the United States go and live in New Jersey, including ALL the buildings and ALL the factories and ALL the farm animals too, they would STILL have a lower population density than ANY European country. Just saying.
What about Matteo Renzi of Italy? Renzi is in no position to go refugee shopping. As I said, Italy takes everyone. Italy has been handling this refugee crisis for five whole years already, and getting criticism from all the European countries whilst doing it, despite spending millions and millions of Euros with very little financial contribution from the EU.
By contrast with America, Italy has taken in 94,000 refugees so far this year, of whom nearly 7,000 were Syrians. Italy isn’t involved in any fighting in Syria or anywhere else, by the way. It is written into the Italian constitution that they cannot take military action against any other country unless it directly threatens to invade Italian soil.
All Renzi can do with the refugees is save their lives, dry them off and send them on. Few of them stay in Italy once they have their papers and permanent leave to remain, because they don’t get free Italian lessons, they don’t get free computer lessons, and even if they did, there are no jobs for them here.
I have read in newspapers written by Italians up north that the immigrants in Italy do the jobs the Italians refuse to do. So far, I am still trying to work out what those might be; I have never met a Sicilian who would refuse to do any job that paid money. I know several men who consider themselves extremely lucky to have been given jobs as bin men, even one who was only given part time work. Sicily is a place where MBA graduates feel grateful for a job as a bank teller and people with a degree in computer programming are happy to work as a removals man. (Those examples are based on two friends of mine.)
Italian citizens don’t get paid unemployment benefit. If you don’t have a job in Italy you have to live of the charity of a relative and collect food from the church. (Now do you see why the family is so important in Italy? North Europeans in a Welfare State can afford to cut ties with annoying relatives but Italians cannot.)
What does Renzi plan to do with the immigrants he has here in Italy? I think he has no plans other than to hold his head above water and keep praying that the rest of Europe will help him out.
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