Blogs by Don Flynn
Getting the UK to pull its weight in Europe’s refugee crisis
With major conflicts continuing to rage across the Middle East, added to by streams of people converging on the region from the war-torn areas of the Horn of Africa and Afghanistan, it is absolutely clear that this is an issue that will continue to dominate the news headline over the coming year.
To say 2015 has been a challenging year all those community organisations, campaign groups, faith movements, trade unions and others working to support the rights of migrants and refugees would be to understate all that happened during the past twelve months.
MRN has worked hard to record all the issues that migrant community activists and human rights campaigners have had to face up to over this time. As you would expect, the drama of the refugee crisis on the south eastern border of Europe and the ‘jungle’ camp in Calais have been prominent in the news items and blogs we have posted.
Closer to home, our virtually weekly commentary on all the fresh legislation being pushed through Parliament has tried to make sense of the conflicting impulses that produce the Modern Slavery Act on one hand and the ‘hostile environment’ of the Immigration Act and the current Immigration Bill on the other.
My provisional take is that it will come to be seen as the year in which the movement of people into and out of the country became finally and indissolubly Europeanised. There are circumstances in which we could easily imagine this to be a good thing, with progressive, forward-thinking governments working together to see how the movement of people is going to play its role in promoting sustainable growth and the welfare of populations, while at the same time cementing human rights and fairness right the way across the system.
Critics of immigration strive to make the case that low pay and exploitation are increasingly rife because newcomers apparently degrade the wages and work conditions secured by home-grown workers.
But their case stumbles over the fact that the point at which wages as a proportion of gross national income began to sharply decline was way back in the mid-1970s. Net migration was at a historically low point back then.
According to the TUC figures, the high point in terms of the share of income that went to wage earners was 1975, when over 64% of the nation’s annual wealth went into the pay packets of workers. By 1996 this had declined to 52%.
The Friday 13th attacks in Paris are being interpreted by many commentators and politicians as a watershed moment in public attitudes towards refugee policies in Europe.
But as recently as August and September this year hundreds and thousands of European citizens took a remarkable stand of declaring a welcome for refugees coming from the war-torn Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa.