When I was a kid I was told a story about a man who arrives at a beach only to find it covered with starfish washed in by the tide. He walked for a while along this beach picking his way between all of the washed up starfish until he came upon an old man. He could see him from afar picking up starfish one after the other and throwing them back into the sea. He approached him and said “why are you bothering, there are far too many starfish here for you to make a difference?” The man smiled at him as he picked up another starfish and said “but I can make a difference to this one” as he threw it back into the sea “and this one” as he threw in another.
The refugee crisis in Europe reminded me of this story. It is tempting to scorn at the pitiful numbers of visas being offered (excepting Germany’s 800,000) by the various countries in comparison to the number of people needing help. But those quotas will mean a life changing difference for thousands of families who otherwise would be stuck in Syria, in refugee camps around Syria or in the netherworld of being a non person in Europe. Each entry permit will change someone’s life for the better and prevent them from risking drowning by setting sail in a vessel that’s not seaworthy or by taking other extraordinary risks.
However it must be remembered that as good as it will be for each and every person granted asylum in a European country it will not stop hundreds of thousands more pouring into Europe from the Middle East, risking death along the way. The British government has given £900 million towards the maintenance of refugee camps around the Middle East but this hasn’t proven to be much of a solution either.
Reading the UK media at the moment one is struck by the great lengths so many publications have gone to avoid calling for military action while simultaneously calling for a solution to the Syrian refugee crisis. As if the war in what used to be Syria and Iraq and the refugee crisis it spawned aren’t even a part of the same issue. This unwillingness to confront the fact that the refugee problem they now face could have been resolved had they found the resolve to confront Assad much, much earlier on is quite frankly astounding. The sheer silence from British politicians who blocked Cameron from launching military strikes against Syria when there was some possibility they could have made a difference casts doubt on their own sincerity now.
I wonder how long we will have to wait before Labour MPs start coming forward and admitting that preventing the strikes on Syria was the wrong move to make. I won’t be holding my breath continued unwillingness to face this fact ensures that no matter how many refugees Europe allows in it will never manage to stem the tide and the chances are that there will be plenty more young children washing up on the shores.
Unlike starfish they cannot simply be thrown back into the sea.