A general election campaign marred by grotesque levels of racism has been punctured by some of the most graphic images of the effect of racism — the bodies of the hundreds of migrants drowned in the Mediterranean Sea during attempts to build a better life away from war and poverty. The images have touched millions across Europe, and hundreds of thousands in the UK, interrupting the depressing competition between the mainstream parties about who can out-Ukip Ukip to win a racist’s vote.
Examples include the petition, widely circulated, calling on the Sun to sack columnist Katie Hopkins after she suggested gunboats be sent to stop “the invasion”, and the protests called at short notice demanding the government backs large-scale humanitarian rescue operations in the Med. Such protests show that, despite the attempt by both Tory and Labour politicians and much of the media to say otherwise, large numbers of people are making the connection between the terrible conditions that have driven thousands of migrants to make such dangerous crossings and the wars our governments have inflicted on their countries.
Yet despite the pressure, David Cameron and home secretary Theresa May seem intent on continuing the same policies that created this humanitarian crisis in the first place. It was the UK government, along with those of the other major European powers, that scuppered the Italian Navy’s rescue missions last October. Now those same governments claim the source of the crisis lies with people smugglers, and are sending the very gunboats so beloved of Hopkins to “deal with it”.
And despite Ed Miliband’s warm words decrying the terrible loss of life, his party’s election mug displaying Labour’s promise to control immigration suggests he would back a similar move if he had the power to do so. But as every migration expert has said repeatedly, no amount of persecution is going to stop migrants trying to reach what they believe will be a better life for themselves and their children.
For as long as the wealthiest countries in the world build walls, such as Fortress Europe, those locked outside will try to scale them. Rather than spend resources in brutal ways to stop “the flow”, it would be better to construct the facilities — the schools, hospitals and homes — to provide migrants with a chance to build a better life. An even better way would be to stop our governments inflicting war in the first place.