There is no way to shut the doors of Britain to the problems of the world. Migration is part of the human story, even part of the human condition. People travel to escape tyranny, poverty, to have a better life, and no force has yet been able to stop them. The scenes we are seeing today of thousands of people walking together through Europe to try and find places of safety are biblical in their imagery and proportions. No walls, no guards, no dogs, no political agreements are going to be strong enough to stop this, and any politicians who claim they will are either delusional or lying. Unless the citizens of Europe are prepared to allow our governments to shoot women, men and children at our borders (which we’re obviously not), we need to find another way. This means a complete reconceptualisation of the situation.
We need to stop seeing people as a problem to be housed, fed, schooled, given social care, child services, extra numbers on already creaking waiting lists. We need to start seeing them as the people they are. They are resourceful, intelligent, driven, and undeniably brave. They are engineers, doctors, teachers, nurses, builders, social workers, police officers, shop keepers, business people, child care workers. Their lives didn’t start as blank sheets when they boarded boats to flee their homes. They should be seen not as a burden but as an asset to European nations, including Britain.
For those who make it into Britain, we currently get them to fill in a form to claim asylum, then we leave them languishing on Home Office waiting lists, if they’re lucky receiving a few pounds a week in support while being banned from working, in an application process that can take years. Instead why not do a skills audit for everyone who arrives to see how they can contribute from day one, just as they would like to.
There are huge swathes of land in this country that lay empty. We have to be open to using this space. Why not use the labour and professional skills of those coming here to build whole new towns, new economic centres, new jobs, new enterprise. Instead of the current government’s approach to try and ‘make Britain less attractive’ why not say, “you are so welcome here but we need your help to create for you something worth coming to.” Let’s encourage investment with promises of tax breaks for companies, for developers, for employers. Let’s show that the human race is still capable of ingenuity, and honesty. Instead of building camps and detention centres, let’s build houses, schools, manufacturing centres, shops, libraries and playgrounds. Stop infantalising these people on the one hand and demonising them on the other, and instead start looking at real humanitarian led regeneration: progressive, humane domestic solutions to global problems that are not going away anytime soon.