Toronto Star

Is Britain doing enough to help Europe’s migrants?


Britain’s decision not to accept large numbers of Syrians has disappoint­ed many of the country’s religious, academic and local leaders, who are lobbying their government to do more during Europe’s biggest humanitari­an crisis since the Second World War.

Prime Minister David Cameron agreed to resettle just 20,000 Syrians from camps in the Middle East by 2020 — a much smaller target per capita than Germany, Sweden or Austria.

More than 750,000 migrants, many of them Syrians fleeing misery and war, have arrived by sea in Europe so far this year, with more than 331,000 in Germany alone.

The British response is based on the politics of fear and distrust, says Prof. Mike Hardy, executive director for the Centre of Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University. “Many of our problems are being blamed on immigrants, including the housing shortage and high cost of living and unemployme­nt,” he said in an in- terview before the Paris attacks. “We have had an industrial decline, but that is not the fault of migrants.”

Cameron was condemned earlier this year for referring to asylum seekers in Calais, France, as a “swarm,” and for refusing to join a Europe-wide resettleme­nt scheme for 160,000 refugees already in Europe. The government has argued that the U.K.’s aid commitment — $2 billion to Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon — will dissuade more Syrians from risking their lives to try to come to Europe.

Migrants “should not be viewed as a problem to be solved,” said Julian Baggini, a British author and philosophe­r who spoke recently at a conference on diversity hosted by Coventry University and the IPPR.

“The social norm of being against racism needs to be upheld and the elites have to make this case.”

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