Driven by data; ridden with liberty.
Over 800 refugees died when their boat capsized in Libyan waters. These people were seeking a perilous journey across the Mediterranean to Europe, in order to escape war and poverty in their own nations.
Between January and September 2014, the International Organisation for Migration claims that there were 4,077 deaths from attempting to migrate between one country and another. These figures are likely to be underestimates, as some deaths are not known nor counted by local authorities.
As immigration and asylum laws tighten, and the bricks of a continental fortress are laid, people who wish to cross a border are turning to illegal means and criminal assistance. At the mercy of human traffickers, a migrant told a BBC reporter:
The Libyan man lied to us. He said it was a big boat. We all paid 1,000 dinar [£488]. When we got to the boat, he forced us to enter with a gun, if you don’t enter he will shoot you.
In these nations, a terrible calculation must be made: balancing the probabilities of staying at home to be shelled in war or die of starvation, and undergoing the precarious journey to other lands, where death may also result. Faced with an awful choice, people wish to come to our Elysian shores.
It should be noted that asylum claims in Britain per capita are beneath the European average. According to the Migration Observatory, the UK received 0.47 asylum applications per 1,000 citizens, compared to 0.91 across the whole of Europe.
Nevertheless, the UK currently puts thousands of asylum seekers in immigration detention centres every year. The Detained Fast Track Processes mean asylum seekers are held in these centres for the duration of their claim, and any appeals that may follow. Many asylum seekers are denied the legality of gainful employment, and instead, are given weekly subventions of £36.62 per person, which is meant to cover food, sanitation and any clothing.
The scandal of Yarl’s Wood immigration centre should be recalled: detainees were called “animals”, “beasties” and “bitches”, with women watched whilst naked. Women for Refugee Women’s report into Yarl’s Wood found 33 of the 38 women they interviewed allege to being seen in an “intimate solution”, including 16 saying men saw them in the shower.
Electorally, the issue of asylum is connected towards the worries about immigration. Across Europe, citizens are concerned about the levels of immigration. According to the Pew Research Center, 84% of Greeks say they are worried about immigration from outside of the European Union (EU), and 54% of Brits say the same.
Public discontentment at current policies towards immigration, and whether these policies should be further harshened fixates much of the present debate. It should be questioned whether these policies are even remotely compassionate. Charity should be playing a bigger role, with institutions such as the Refugee Council performing utterly vital work. Immigration and asylum policy should beat with humanity, not beat down humanity.
As ever with difficult topics, it is easier to be entranced with rage about the words of newspaper columnists. Writing in The Sun, Katie Hopkins called migrants “cockroaches” and “a plague of feral humans”. In citing the response of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, a friend suggested that people should “take your freedom of speech and shove it up your ass”, as “these attitudes are racist and perpetuating an unnecessary evil”.
Freedom of speech means that a person can air an opinion, no matter how inchoate or dull or stupid, without fear of criminal prosecution or violent retribution. Whilst I vehemently disagree with Ms Hopkins’ words, the present policy on immigration and asylum should be what stokes our ire. Putting Ms Hopkins in prison does not manipulate the electorate. Moreover, if we are to imply that Ms Hopkins should be in prison because someone purportedly, or theoretically, may act upon her words, then why is Ms Hopkins to blame for the actions of another person? Why exculpate those who commits these crimes, by transferring their rightful blame onto someone who published an odious opinion? Furthermore, a restriction on freedom of speech for one person is a restriction on everyone: a law forges the rod for our own backs.
The only way that the government will amend its policies is if the electorate demands it, which can only happen by winning over their support. Voters can be persuaded and their thoughts on immigration and asylum policy changed. People should be willing to have that debate, rather than calling for the arrest of celebrities with acrimonious ideas.