Editorial from the October 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard
Over the past few months Europe has been facing the biggest influx of refugees since the Second World War. They have been fleeing the war zones of the Middle East and North Africa. The biggest group are those trying to escape the particularly brutal civil war in Syria. The major Powers have had a hand in creating this crisis by fomenting conflicts in these regions. The US and British military intervention there has created political instability in Afghanistan and Iraq. In Syria, Russia and Iran are supplying arms to the Assad regime and American and French drones are bombing Isis targets. British drones have joined in attacking Isis targets in Iraq and David Cameron hopes to persuade Parliament later this year to approve British drones being used in Syria. In 2011, Britain and France undertook the bombing of Libya, which has led to the present unstable situation there that has induced many to make the hazardous journey across the Mediterranean.
Rather than receiving the help they need, these desperate people have had obstacles put in their way. In Hungary razor-wire fencing has been built along its border with Serbia and the police have been tear gassing refugees trying to enter the country. Unable to enter the European countries legally, they have had to resort to paying human traffickers to transport them in unsafe boats to European destinations such as Greece and Italy. About 2,500 have died while attempting to make the crossing. On 27 August, 71 refugees were found dead in an abandoned lorry in Austria near the Hungarian border. Some refugees have been killed trying to reach Britain from Calais via the Channel Tunnel.
We are not encouraged to see them as fellow human beings, but as a menace. They are 'economic migrants', who seek to sponge off the good people of Europe. Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, complains of 'millions of marauding African migrants' posing a threat to the EU’s standard of living and David Cameron talks of a 'swarm' of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to come to Britain. Katie Hopkins, the great sage of The Sun, tells us that migrants are like cockroaches. We have been reliably informed by the Daily Mail that British tourists in the island of Kos in Greece have had their holidays ruined by the presence of refugees there. There have been calls by some politicians and some of the press to send the British Army to deal with the refugee crisis in Calais.
However, this all changed when images of the body of three-year old Aylan Kurdi, a Syrian refugee, washed up on a Turkish beach, appeared in the world press and shamed European countries into taking action. Germany has since pledged to take in 800,000 refugees this year. David Cameron, who previously took a hard line against accepting more refugees in the UK, has relented and agreed to accept a further 20,000 refugees over the next five years. It has to be said that these pledges are not entirely altruistic. Germany's population is falling and it needs an intake of younger workers to support an ageing population. British employers will, no doubt, find good uses for the skills of these newcomers.
Socialists are heartened by the solidarity shown by workers across Europe, in Germany, Austria and Hungary in welcoming the refugees to their countries with offers of food and drink and toys for the children.
We can only look forward to the day when workers extend their solidarity and work together to abolish capitalism, the system which creates the need for war and the resulting human suffering, and establish a socialist society which does away with all divisions between human beings and the conflicts which give rise to these harrowing tragedies.