UNHCR: Europe! let them take advantage of their sudden liberty!
Posted by Ann Corcoran on May 13, 2011
As I mentioned in my previous post about human sacrifices at sea, Antonio Gutteres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees recently lectured Europe (via an op-ed in the New York Times) about welcoming the African refugees.
Among a bunch of other junk, he said in ‘Look who’s coming to Europe’:
Refugees fleeing conflict and persecution have so far been only a small proportion of the people crossing the Mediterranean to Europe, and to Italy and Malta in particular. The vast majority have been young Tunisian migrants. Overwhelmingly male, single and in their 20s, they have sought to take advantage of their sudden liberty to pursue brighter prospects in Europe.
And, besides, Europe you need cheap labor!
This is understandable. And it can be argued that Europeans’ self-interest is best served by allowing them to remain, given the need for migrant workers in Europe and migrants’ remittances to families bolstering the economies back home.
No fear or populism allowed!
But in the end, European states have the right to define migration policies and manage their borders in a responsible manner, provided they do so consistent with their international obligations, namely in regard to refugees. It is my hope that they will be guided by their enlightened self-interest and not by narrow, short-term interests driven by fear or populism.
Gutteres also attempts to make the connection between revolution in Portugal* when he was young and the “Arab Spring” and in a subsequent letter to the editor a reader argues that the big difference is that the democracy movement activists in Portugal stayed to change Portugal and did not take advantage of their “sudden liberty” to run to another country and ask for a handout. Read the letter here.
*I have to admit, I wondered what the heck socialist Gutteres is talking about since Portugal today is an economic mess too—just less of a mess than North Africa!
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