EU has been right to take migrants but will have to get tough too

Morning View
Morning View

The migrant tragedy continues, this time with over 45 people drowned off Greece’s coast.

Among the dead are 17 children.

The influx of people to Europe has not been deterred by the hundreds of deaths that have preceded this latest disaster, and will not be deterred by it either.

This is a moral crisis for the EU as well as a political one. Many of the people who are risking their lives to cross the Aegean or the Mediterranean are fleeing chaos in Libya and the Middle East that western military action (supported by Britain) quite possibly made worse.

The German chancellor Angela Merkel was trying to live up to the noblest traditions of European civilisation when she promised to allow hundreds of thousands of migrants to settle in her country. But it increased the flow of people. The alternative, however, of turning boats back is hardly palatable.

One of the most wicked trades in modern history has sprung up on the Turkish coast – the traffickers who deal in human misery by charging desperate people extortionate amounts of money to cross to Europe in over-laden boats captained by people who have no sea experience.

The EU has been trying to strike deals with Turkey to halt the trade by offering Ankara money, but the Turkish authorities still do not seem to have any grip on the situation.

David Cameron was right to resist the emotional demands that the UK, which already is overwhelmed with immigration, fling open its borders to migrants and refugees. His government insisted instead on taking people from camps near to Syria, to discourage further mass movement. Some of the refugees taken by the UK are already in Northern Ireland.

The EU could yet unravel as a result of the crisis, perhaps triggered by a British exit that seems increasingly plausible. Ultimately if the influx is to be stemmed the EU will have to mirror Britain’s tough stance of helping with rescue missions and taking some refugees but also demonstrating clearly that dangerous boat journeys do not lead to European citizenship.