Why are these refugees coming to Europe anyway?

I recently moved back to England, partly because I found my dream job, my life’s calling; and equally so that my son could go to school in peace after his school in Sicily fell down.

A child who has just got out of Syria and made it to a refugee camp across the border

Now that I am back in England I am realising that the level of pity and sympathy for refugees is very low compared to that in Sicily. I still get lots of people writing and asking me if it is “safe” for them to go ahead with their holiday in Sicily, given that the place is “overrun” with refugees.

Firstly, it isn’t. You don’t see many refugees out and about.

When refugees come to an EU country, they first get put into a centre where they may not walk around freely. I have seen on television, and been told by a few people who have been to them, that the refugee centres in Sicily are pretty wretched places.

Once their paperwork is sorted out and they are granted official refugee status, the refugees are allowed to leave the centre and go wherever they wish within Shengenland. Shengenland is rapidly becoming a part of EU history, but at least in theory, it does still exist.

ZA'ATARI, JORDAN - FEBRUARY 01: Children pose for a picture as Syrian refugees go about their daily business in the Za'atari refugee camp on February 1, 2013 in Za'atari, Jordan. Record numbers of refugees are fleeing the violence and bombings in Syria to cross the borders to safety in northern Jordan and overwhelming the Za'atari camp. The Jordanian government are appealing for help with the influx of refugees as they struggle to cope with the sheer numbers arriving in the country. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 160600686
These adorable kids are managing to keep cheerful in a soggy refugee camp in Jordan


Refugees get whatever that country’s social services offers to its own citizens. In Sicily, this is very little. Actually, it is nothing.

Refugees don’t stay in Sicily because the Sicilians just don’t have anything much to give them, other than sympathy, a few old clothes and maybe a few strands of spaghetti.

Sicily has 50% unemployment, so what it definitely doesn’t have for them is a job.

So that is why you have no reason to worry that refugees are making Sicily unsafe; there are hardly any there. They are just passing through.

The third reason is, of course, that the refugees don’t come to Europe to start a crime wave. They come to be safe.


In the UK, they get a free home, monthly money, free medical services and free language lessons, computer lessons or other training to help them find a job. They have a permanent right to live on an equal status with the citizens. This web page tells them what they can get.

State help varies greatly from one country to another in Europe, but one of the things every single person does get, guaranteed, is a free education up to the age of 18 and the right to go to university. Whilst lots of people in England think refugees come here for the financial benefits, the right to an education is the really valuable thing we give them. That is the real reason they come.


In countries outside the EU, the treatment of refugees is very different indeed. They are not allowed to integrate with the citizens, they have to stay in the refugee camp living off food handouts. They are legally prevented from getting jobs in many countries and in the cast majority of countries, their children may not go to university. In most of them, they are not even allowed to go to school.

Everything is set up to make sure they never forget they are being granted temporary asylum, a place free of bombs and nothing much more, until they can go away back to their real home.

Children in a refugee camp in Lebanon: there is no schooling for them
Children in a refugee camp in Lebanon: there is no schooling for them


Refugee camps in Turkey and other countries bordering Syria are now full of Syrians who desperately want schooling for their children, whom they hope will be able to return to Syria in the future and rebuild the country.

When I asked the few Syrians I met in Sicily their main reason for coming Europe, they told me it was for their children’s future.

“I come here for my babies” one man told me in English, repeating the phrase several times. “My babies get school and can build their future in Europe.”

If none of the Syrian children can go to university or even to school, the Syria of the future will have no engineers and no architects; they will have no doctors or teachers; they will have nobody who understands how to create an economy out of nothing. What hope will there be for Syria?

The middle classes of Syria are continuing their exodus towards Europe mainly for this reason.

As someone who came to England for the same reason, for my son’s education, I truly empathise. Wouldn’t you do the same for your children?

I cannot think of anything a parent should fight for more passionately than for the welfare and future of their children.

An English school; I defy anyone to challenge fact that they are the best in the world. I have Swiss, German and French friends who have moved to England, like me, so their children could attend school in England.

35 thoughts on “Why are these refugees coming to Europe anyway?

  1. Hear, hear. At last someone saying what I don’t hear enough at the moment – that we are talking about human beings who are going through hell and need sympathy rather than suspicion, racism and doors being slammed in their faces. It would be great for the mess in Syria to be sorted out, but I can’t see it happening.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very interesting post. I live in a city that has a long history of accepting refugees. Unfortunately at the moment there are so many British homeless families living here. Instead of demanding the Government do something about that, attention is turned to the fact that people who have put nothing into our system get housed and help, when many of own citizens do not. This argument gets raised with every depression. The poor fighting the poor – divide and rule.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The poor fighting the poor… So true. There should be more empathy and I find that there is in Sicily, where there are more people closer to genuine poverty who truly understand what it feels like.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely go to Sicily, it is fab for holidays. I have mixed feelings about living there! But it gets an unreserved recommendation for holidays.


      1. Basically, it is very hard to find a job, and for an English person who likes things orderly, it is hard to cope with the chaos!


  3. More than 250,000 Syrians have lost their lives in four-and-a-half years of armed conflict, which began with anti-government protests before escalating into a full-scale civil war. More than 11 million others have been forced from their homes as forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and those opposed to his rule battle each other – as well as jihadist militants from so-called Islamic State.
    We should look to our own humanity and reach out to help the survivors live the one life afforded to each in safety , security and respect .
    The Syrians are victims . They lived fully rounded lives in a sophisticated
    society until it was blown apart .
    What kind of nation is it that turns its back on such torment ?
    We are global citizens . Tenants of the globe .
    Remember Aylan Kurdi . A baby …

    ” A man’s destination is not his destiny ,
    Every country is home to one man
    And exile to another . Where a man dies bravely
    At one with his destiny , the soil is his .
    Let his village remember .”

    T.S. ELIOT


  4. It is not just Syrians. Palermo’s extensive historic center is full of Ghanaians, Sri Lankans, Bangla people, southeast Asians, Ethiopians, Senegalese and more. It is true the government agencies offer them nothing, but Sicilian PEOPLE, individuals and especially those who have formed or are part of non-profits, give them food, love, encouragement, language classes, job training, legal help with paperwork and psychological care for those who have escaped trauma, torture and rape on their way up from sub-Saharan Africa. In fact the book I am writing right now tells the stories of these people, both the immigrants and the fine Palermitan people who open their arms and hearts to help these immigrants and do what the government is not doing and cannot do: LOVE them. Show them compassion by their actions, not just words. This is something Sicilians do well. They have not got much, but their deep sense of empathy propels them to help.
    If anyone knows of a literary agent who wants to take my book on, please help me get this into print. It is called The Heart of Palermo.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That sounds like a fantastic book and I sincerely hope you find a publisher for it. Please share a link here if you do… I Would love to publish a review to help more people hear about it.
      I agree so much with you. The level of empathy for refugees among Sicilians, and the desire to roll their sleeves up and actually help, is so much higher than I am finding in England. The Sicilians truly deserve high praise for their humanity.


  5. I understand totally the plight of these people. I go back and forth in my heart. Some days I truly want to help and understand their dilemma and other times I don’t understand if all these people who fled would stand up and fight for their own country and existence perhaps there would be no need to leave their place of origin. I am too an immigrant in the US. We came when I was 10. There was no work in Sicily then and now. Yes we came for economic reasons legally. Every parent wants the very best for their children but Europe is being invaded. The illegals are not coming to Europe in a procedural way. They are forcing themselves in a society that does not want them and then in turn want to be respected in their customs. As we see in Germany with the New Year’s celebrations. They do not respect European women but wouldn’t dare do to their women what they did to Europeans.

    I am a very proud Sicilian and I know we are a mixture of every culture in the world, after all we are in the middle of three continents, and every one left a little bit of their seeds, but remember we are being pushed out to go find work all over the world because no one cares what happens to Sicily especially Rome and the North of Italy. So we accept these poor souls and push them out just like the regular citizens.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is fantastic and incredibly well written. It’s very refreshing and just generally pleasant to see a post empathizing with refugees, rather than the seemingly countless vocal minority who is spewing nothing but fear and hate under the guise of “helping our own first.” Nicely done!


  7. Well done! Wonderful. You are the goddess of awareness. I love your intelligence and this blog.
    I love to learn that Sicilians are warm hearted like the Québécois and Canadians.
    I used to be so proud to be born in the only French-speaking province of Canada, a total separatist. Then got fed up of the franco-anglo war, the search for unity, serenity and freedom is way more important. Then in Canada we went again into the dark ages with the neanderthal prime minister that was there for 10 ugly shameful years, made us a laughing stock in the eco green world. Then, yippiee, a new Prime Minister candidate who promised that if he was elected he would welcome 25 000 Syrian refugees. Most said it was one of those irrealistic campain promises. But he did it! Las t week we learned that Justin Trudeau made it, and there are so many little companies and businesses in my province that want to give them a chance and follow them until they have learned to speak French (many already do). I used to be so proud to be a Québécoise, now I am also becoming proud to be a Canadian, where we have a lot, and can offer a lot to Syrians and people from ALL origins. I love all the skin colors I see when I walk in the streets of Montréal, let’s have the whole planet becoming from porcelain white to midnight black, all over, with smiles on our faces. And eventually, all skin tones will become more or less copper, for all the mixes between people 😉


  8. From a German perspective 80% of the “Merkel migrants” are young men. 80% of them have only a basic primary school education (at best). They clearly do not come for education. They come for the social welfare which is excellent. And for the adventures you can have with women without being punished (by your father, or by the German police).

    They come because they have been promised to get “a house for free”. And really: With a family with 4 children and maybe two grandparents you get the money to live in a house for free. Or two flats. When the Merkel migrants are offered a training on the job, most refuse to do so. This was not what they had come for. Those who try, mostly give up soon: Because they do not earn enough money when being trained for an (easy) job. They expected more. Germany has become a socialist’s paradise again. It won’t last long. Teutonic furor is on the rise.

    This weekend we have important elections in three German federal states. The oppositional “Alternative für Deutschland” AfD party will enter all three parliaments with a good percentage. The resistance of the establishment is embarassing. As if they never heard of any democratic values: State media is vastly abused to defame the AfD. AfD’s election posters are systematically removed from the streets by leftist initiatives which are financed on one way or another by the government. Restaurants are threatened with devastation if they offer rooms for AfD events. The churches exclude the AfD from discussions. Social welfare organizations started to fire employees who are members of the AfD. Teachers and civil servants who are members of the AfD are moved to other places. Academic assistents are dismantled from their academic tasks and publicly dishonoured by the head of the university, because they are members of the AfD. Letters to the editor are not published. Commentary facilities on newspapers’ homepages are switched off.

    Recent defamation against the AfD was that they want to shoot on refugee children. If the defamation wasn’t so real you could laugh about it.

    Germans still know how to make dictatorship. Only this time it is a ridiculous liberal-leftist dictatorship. Many Germans think that they are good democrats as long as they are leftists. “Tolerance” in Germany means tolerance towards illegal immigrants or communists. So, we have a lot of statement these days, that the AfD cannot be tolerated because of tolerance. The intolerance makes the tolerant democrat. Hitler & Honecker would love it.

    And finally I have to report that the Tories started to push the AfD members out of their EU parliamentary faction (ECR faction). Mr Cameron does not like the AfD, too? Then we Germans do not like Mr Cameron any more.

    By the way: Do British border patrol officers carry weapons when doing their job? Don’t answer with a simple “yes”! This is a dangerous trap …. you could be suspected to support shooting on refugee children …. the wrong answer can make your job, your career, your church membership, your membership in a sports club etc. etc. go down to hell. At least in Germany.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I don’t believe my argument is racist, although I will be branded as such because that is a simple way to blot out common sense. I accept that the train of events in Syria is tragic, and that many of those crossing international borders need to escape. Odd, then, in their pursuit of a better life, how many are anxious NOT to have their fingerprints taken or their identity checked. Odd, too, how they target UK rather than France because we have no identity cards in UK. Disturbing that so large a proportion of migrants are young males and not from a war-torn nation, but simply economic travellers.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I didn’t finish, so I apologise. Of course I would like to open our doors to the world, but it is unrealistic to place further strain on an infrastructure that is already stretched. and unfortunately true that those who know how to milk sympathy from the system get preferential treatment in the queue for essential services we once regarded as our right. Yes, we have our own homeless on the streets. Some charity – not all, but some – should surely begin at home.

    Britain is already the most densely populated nation in Europe, and fast becoming one of the most populous in the Western world. In theory we could probably accept a population of 200 million before the entire islands are concreted over and people start to fall off the edge. But in doing that we are merely inviting the troubles that beset another Syria.

    Much as my sympathetic thoughts are directed at these people, we cannot contain them all – to do so would be to become a target for every nation in need of a new home.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. With all the news shows I can never really tell what’s going on with the refugees. Thank you for clarifying some of it. I am in a middle eastern country and have met someone who had to leave her home in Syria and it changes the way you see it when you meet someone who has been through it


  12. Not to be that internet guy BUT the planet will only support a certain amount of people. When a bacteria invades a host, it “eats” the host until the host dies-and guess what , the bacteria die after that. I am humble enough to realize I am no better than bacteria. It’s nature! It has a finite limit. This is why the Chinese government limited one child per family. I’m sorry, we’re mammals. It is survival of the fittest and not everyone can live. The European birthrate is down, I believe Italy’s is going in a negative trend. Should rufugees with 5 kids be allowed to go on government support in a foreign land because of empathy? We are all connected to everything and everyone. Mother earth is ultimately in charge. I do believe that sustainability is going to be/is the bigger future issue. For example, water. There are 2 billion people without drinkable water already. Where will that number go when there are 14 Billion people on the planet. Humans are a very destructive species.


  13. The UN leaders need to establish policy where if a certain percent of a country’s population is leaving, they will establish control enabling people to remain in their country under UN flag.


  14. Agree with the comment that the current population growth among Africans and many people from the Middle East is not sustainable. Europeans and their ancestors figured this out at least one generation ago. Of course, the issue of who is to support the aged without population growth, hasn’t been solved. Clearly, supporting large number of migrants/refugees is not doable without a sharp decrease in living standards of the native population. Yet, the migrants/refugees appear to be constantly complaining about the living standards the host countries are able to provide. There are a finite amount of resources in developed countries.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. i love your blog and all the stories, they are amazing. But about the refugees you apparently can not know what it is to have them in your society as they don’t stay where you live. I am afraid that none of them are coming here just to run away from the war, there are barely any Syrians or anybody who is really coming from Syria, as most of them had left Syria already 3-4 years ago and were also already in a peaceful country. but of course, the benefits in western Europe are a lot higher and they come here just like that…. so why not take a full advantage of the system… and yes, the crime rate Is rocketing high since they moved to my area.


    1. I am really sorry to hear this. Do you live in Sicily?
      And as you say, the people coming to Sicily are almost all Subsaharan Africans and they are not fleeing war, most of them. You can tell that by how disappointed many of them are when they see Sicily – I think they expect it to be some kind of wealthy wonderland, and get a shock to find out it is poorer than a lot of North Africa and has a horrendous rate of unemployment.
      If highly educated Sicilians have to leave to find a job, what hope is there for an immigrant who struggles to speak Italian?


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