Spending money near the source of the migrant problem

Morning View
Morning View

In the complex international migrant drama, Britain is among the countries that have been criticised for being insufficiently generous in taking refugees.

But the UK’s response has been among the more imaginative of the major European nations.

David Cameron tries to keep the focus on the source more than the symptoms.

It is easy, amid a sudden cry for compassion after tragic images of drownings, to insist that the gates be opened.

But Germany found quickly that this just increased the number of people making the perilous journey from Africa and Asia to Europe. Mr Cameron said instead that we would take refugees from Syrian camps.

The message needs to go out to would-be migrants: don’t embark on your journey.

The prime minister is also justified in pointing out that his Conservative Party has resisted right wing calls to cut the foreign aid budget, which helps tackle global problems at source.

At the summit of EU leaders in Brussels yesterday, he pledged to continue that approach by announcing an extra £100 million for refugees in camps in countries that neighbour Syria.

The UK has put a similar focus on problems at source in the past, such as trying to get countries to agree not to pay ransoms for kidnapped citizens, which nations such as France and Italy have paid, but which encourage more abductions.

The UK is already at bursting point due to the high levels of immigration since the late 1990s, something on which the Labour government and its coalition successor struggled to get a grip (as might the current Tory government).

The migrant crisis has shown how Britain was right to opt out of the Schengen agreement on open borders, as it was right to stay out of the euro.

But we cannot close our ears and eyes to the humanitarian tragedy. Taking a limited number of refugees while being one of the biggest spenders on aid in Syria itself is a constructive compromise.