Sir Paul Collier, Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford University, England, in the Cover Story of the Catholic Herald (April 22, 2016) entitled THOU SHALT NOT TEMPT: Europe’s political and religious leaders must remember a fundamental moral principle as they tackle the migrant crisis, argues that generosity to refugees and migrants is not enough.
The first requirement is to ensure that neighboring countries provide safe havens. Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon should be financially supported in their efforts to meet the Syrian crisis. International firms can invest in jobs for those who can work.
He argues that opening the doors to refugees as German Chancellor Angela Merkel did has compounded the tragedy by breaching another fundamental moral principle: “thou shalt not tempt”. They have been tempted to seize the opportunity of the open door policy to live in Europe. They are disproportionately young, male and middle-class who have bought their passage from people-traffickers. The temptation of Europe has encouraged the attitudes that Syria is finished. The president of Afghanistan, an economist, has voiced the same criticism of the open door. The Afghans coming to Europe have often paid many thousands of dollars to people-traffickers. They are not the poor, but rather the people best placed to rebuild their country.
“The chaotic conditions created by Europe’s open door have been seized by thousands of economic migrants from around the world who have determined to try their luck. These people have crowded out the needs of genuine refugees. Worse, having been lured onto boats by the temptations of Europe and the blandishments of the traffickers, thousands have drowned. The offer of open borders without the safe means of reaching them was, inadvertently, irresponsible.
Our response to this wave of economic migration has encountered a further layer of moral confusion: is there not a moral right to immigrate? Are border controls inherently selfish and racist? I think not: there are three powerful ethical arguments in support of restrictions on immigration.
The first is concern for the interests of Europe’s poor. The higher the proportion of immigrants in society, the less willing are those earning above-average income to support transfers to the poor. Part of the ethical case for migration controls is that those on above-average incomes do not have the moral right to sacrifice the interest of their poorer fellow citizens. Nor should they dismiss the concerns of the poor as mere symptoms of racism.
The right to emigrate from one country does not imply the right to immigrate to any other country of choice. Try the argument at a personal level: I do not have the right to prevent my spouse from leaving home, but that does not give her the right to come and live in your home. Other governments and nations restrict entry in order to preserve their quality of life and national identity.
Economic migrants from poor countries are disproportionately young, educated and enterprising. They leave their societies in order to better their own circumstances. While this is a triumph of economic freedom, it is self-serving. The true icons of compassion are those capable people who choose to stay and help their less able fellow citizens. Europe’s open borders have inadvertently tempted such people to abandon their responsibilities towards those who need them.”
All these points have application to the debate in the USA over border controls. It is not enough to claim that anyone arguing for more secure borders is selfish and racist. The appeal of Donald Trump’s rhetoric is paralleled in Europe where the poor and unemployed find their rights sacrificed in favor of immigrants. This is a world problem that requires careful political leadership.