So far this blog has kept out of all discussion about the migrant/refugee crisis, largely because I can see more problems than solutions, no matter which way one turns. I see no point in discussing the international rules and regulations that govern such matters as migration, freedom of movement or settlement. The many thousands of people who are coming across (and, as a matter of fact, "swarm" is not such a bad word to describe what is happening) the Mediterranean and Aegean are unlikely to know those rules or care about them. What they want to do is get away from their own country, whatever it might be and for whatever reason, and to get to the West where, they are convinced, life will be much better and easier. How they envisage that life is unclear.
I have no solutions. Nor do any of the people who shout their opinions on the subject considerably more loudly than I have done. I imagine we all agree that the people traffickers who collect the money, shove as many people into leaky boats and inadequate lorries should be stopped. Some of them have been arrested in Hungary and I hope that those arrests will lead to a rolling up of the network or, at least, most of it. The argument that this deals with the symptoms not the causes is pointless - we cannot deal with the causes, which lie in the countries whence these people are fleeing and taking in refugees will deal only with the symptoms.
Some politicians and even more analysts or just commentators say that this is Europe's shame, which is a silly attitude as it is the shame of those countries where people do not seem to be able to survive. And, of course, since many of the refugees are from the Middle East, the shame of the other, richer Arab countries who are not offering any help. To be fair, not many refugees or migrants are trying to get into those rich Arab countries. I wonder why not.
The same commentators decry popular and political attitudes, which, they say, are hardening against the migrants (or refugees). Well, maybe. Or maybe not. I have noted some fairly sentimental attitudes as well as the more hostile ones. The truth remains that all the attitudes seem to be based on the latest pictures and that is, in my opinion, what will happen if foreign policy is ever decided entirely on the basis of popular opinion, perhaps through constant referendums. The latest picture will be the basis of policy.
Thus the horrible picture that appeared in the Independent today of the Syrian child drowned in Turkey when the boat he was in capsized excited furious comments about European leaders ignoring the plight of these unfortunates. Anyone who raised a different opinion (not I but others) on some of the threads was shouted down.
Yesterday, on the other hand, there were other pictures from Budapest where thousands of migrants (or refugees) simply took over the largest railway station, Keleti and the square outside it and proceeded to bring the city to a halt by their refusal to move and their chanting.
Clearly these pictures will excite very different attitudes.
If it comes to that, nobody seems to have any clear idea of where most of the refugees (or migrants) are coming from. Syria, probably; Libya, also probably; Turkey, maybe; other Balkan countries, more than likely. Where else? Describing them as people from the Middle East, Africa and Asia tells us nothing. That is a very large area and not every part of it is going through the sort of chaos Syria is at the moment. Could all the people be victims or have some of them been involved in what reduced those countries to dysfunctional entities? And why are they still coming despite the fact that almost all have access to mobiles and social networks and can, therefore, see that there is the odd problem or two in various parts of Europe where they arrive.
Nobody, so far as I can tell, has anything remotely resembling an answer to any of those questions. The most sensible suggestions I have seen revolve round the need to establish some kind of an organized processing centre or several centres where we can find out who the many people are, where do they come from, are they really in need of refuge and are any of them on the "not wanted" lists already? Beyond that, it might be a good idea to find out exactly what it is they intend to do when they get to the various destinations as there is a limit to what even Western Europe can provide in housing and welfare. And beyond that, we need to make it quite clear that any refugee (or migrant) who comes here will need to obey the law. No calls for sharia courts, no forced marriages and so on.
How can all this be sorted out? Where can we build adequate facilities for processing centres and who will pay for it? Here is my modest suggestion:
The EU's top brass seems very anxious to show that they care deeply and they are continually instructing the member states to take however many refugees (or migrants) the EU tells them to take. They are, also, as it happens, hoping to use this crisis as a beneficial one and to strengthen their own control over the member states but that does not seem to be working out.
However, there is a way in which the Eurocracy can be very useful. It so happens that both in Brussels and in Strabourg there are "European Quarters" with large buildings with many rooms and excellent facilities. Every year very large sums are allocated to the running of those Quarters and the paying of those who work in them from Commissioners and Members of the Toy Parliament down. No need to build new processing centres, no need to allocate new funds - take over the European Quarters, evict those who work there now, turn them into those centres and use the money allocated for their running to sort out the refugee (or migrant) crisis. If we also add this year's salaries of all those who work there we shall have a more than adequate sum to house and feed people temporarily while we sort out who they are, where they will go to and what they might want to do there.
Who should run these centres? Well, obviously not the Eurocrats or the national politicians. Perhaps, NATO would take it on for the time being.