To stop the deaths, stop the boats!

There are many good reasons to manage immigration. For example, preserving a common national identity – without which there can be no nationhood – and preventing our creaking welfare and healthcare systems from being overwhelmed.

Those of us who oppose open borders and mass immigration often focus on the destructive effect on host societies. For example, the cultural gap between a free society that does not treat women as mere sexual playthings or impose laws against blasphemy, and the very illiberal Islamic societies were some migrants come from. Or the possibility that within the bedraggled mass of genuine refugees lurk potential ISIS terrorists and their supporters.

But there is an equally compelling argument against soft-touch immigration policy – the carnage it wreaks on the migrants themselves.

Around 3700 migrants died crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa or Turkey last year.

26 migrants – including 10 children – drowned yesterday when the tiny wooden boat they had been crammed into capsized near the Greek island of Samos off the coast of Turkey. Just last week, dozens more bodies were being fished out of the eastern Aegean.

The deaths do not deter others from making the perilous passage. Waves after wave of people – over a million in 2015 – sweep across the sea into Greece and Italy.

Most head straight for Germany, where Angela Merkel has thrown open the gates of Europe and laid out the welcome mat. Others head to Sweden, or make their way to Calais or Dunkirk in an attempt to enter Britain.

Many of the migrants are so desperate that they entrust their lives into the callous hands of vile people smugglers. The cargo – human livestock to the smugglers – are locked below decks in conditions resembling an eighteenth century slave ship. Women are raped or forced into prostitution. If the boat is in trouble, the unfortunate passengers are often thrown overboard.

This is tragedy on an unimaginable scale. You cannot read about it and not be moved. But sentimentality does not always lead to good policy.

EU leaders are divided on how to respond to the crisis. Whilst several Eastern European countries have attempted to halt the flow, Germany has thrown open its borders – and thus the whole of Europe – to all comers. In Britain, David Cameron has come under increasing pressure to take in more migrants. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that everyone who wants to settle in Britain should be allowed to.

Supporters of open borders presumably feel very good about themselves right now. By showing their support for refugees and migrants, they are showing off their own righteousness. It’s a perfect example of what the author James Bartholomew calls ‘virtue-signalling‘ – holding the right opinions as a substitute for actually doing good.

Their sympathetic ‘humanitarianism’ may well be born of good intentions. But it is a death sentence for thousands of young men and their families. By encouraging mass migration, we encourage these people to risk their lives in a harrowing attempt to reach our shores. Many more people will die until that it is stopped.

Fortunately, there is a solution to hand. Australia faced a similar crisis several years ago: Asian migrants, clinging to rafts and dinghies, drowning in their thousands in an attempt to reach its shores. The number of asylum seekers travelling to Australia by boat rose dramatically in 2012 and 2013.

Tony Abbott, Australia’s newly elected (and now sadly former) Prime Minister, knew exactly what to do. If migrants knew they would not be allowed to reach Australia, fewer would make the journey: “The only way to stop the deaths”, he argued, “is to stop the boats”.

Australia now intercepts the boats and takes migrants to an offshore processing centre to be resettled in Paupa New Guinea, Nauru, or Cambodia.

At the time, Abbott was treated by liberal opinion as an ogre-figure, ruthlessly indifferent to the suffering of migrants, and motivated by callousness or racism. But his policy worked. The numbers attempting the crossing fell dramatically, and so did migrant deaths.

If we really want to save migrant lives then we should stop the boats and stop rewarding illegal migration. It’s time to abandon the soft-touch approach. Too many lives have been lost already.


Chris has been a member of the Conservative Party since 2010. He believes strongly in individual freedom, personal responsibility, and the power of free markets to eliminate poverty by encouraging wealth creation. Follow him on Twitter: @cjmanby1989

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The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty.