A reasonable argument is that economic migrants seeking to share the wealth they perceive to be abundant in the West, should be discouraged while refugees fleeing a homeland through persecution, war or famine should be helped, and that the people smugglers who arrange their unsafe passage to Italy should be punished, or at least deterred. If only it were that easy: if a dilapidated boat starts to sink off the Italian coast, how can you tell if the drowning passengers “deserve” to be rescued? If you believe they do not deserve to be there, is it right to let them die when saving them can be an option? How would you feel if you were in that boat?
It is interesting how easily we discriminate between what or who is worthy of life and what is not. Some people will kill, without thought, a spider, tread on a worm in their path, or watch the drowning of a butterfly struggling on water when a net is to hand; others think nothing of abusing a child or beating a dog to death even while they care for their family, and themselves, lovingly. It is impossible to save all life, but all life can be honoured.
And so it is with the refugee-migrants who are causing so many problems and at such expense – but often it is because of Western military interference and political ineptitude over decades. The numbers of people displaced through war will continue to increase, and the countries providing food and shelter for them now, like Jordan, may themselves become part of the conflict, and produce refugees too. We bear a heavy responsibility for the situation, and will be forced to accept it.
In Europe, the debate is focused on how to stop the migrants arriving in Italy through their illegal passage on the Mediterranean, rather than addressing the causes of their journey and how best to help them if they survive that journey. It may be deterrent measures will be necessary for the would–be profiteers, such as returning them to their homeland, but genuine refugees deserve our help, and their life. We all may be refugees one day, and who will help us then?