It has been building like a thunderstorm in the distance for months, possibly years. Anyone who has monitored European media and in particular the B.B.C. news could not help but noticed the growing consternation about the refugee flood from Africa and the Middle East. They will have noticed the changes in tempo from the increasing numbers leaving, to the subsequent increase in drownings off the coast. They will have noticed the surge in cases of migrants trying to get on trains to different parts of Europe, the growing debate about what to do – ranging from Hungary closing its border, to, just today, Britain announcing it will accept several thousand more.
So what has fuelled this humanitarian thunderstorm? There are several reasons that can be attributed to it:
- The continuing arming of Middle East despots to conduct proxy wars that only ever ended up killing and maiming thousands of innocent people
- The large scale failure of western foreign policy, not just in Syria but across the Middle East, which has sowed a truly rotten crop of problems that is now ready for harvest – Israel; the rise and fall of nations that were never going to survive anyway because of sectarian divisions hundreds of years old
- The complete failure of European nations to plan for a refugee crisis that they absolutely knew about, and indeed exacerbated
- A systemic failure by the west to appreciate and respect Africa as a continent – former imperial powers such as France and Italy, but also others such as Belgium not accepting responsibility for the unstable state of their former colonies
This is a thunderstorm that is perhaps 90 years in the making in the Middle East, and over 100 years in the making in Africa. It is the surest indicator that imperialist ambitions are only ever going to end badly.
Like a thunderstorm this issue will dissipate (somewhat) when the supply of unstable air runs out. That means addressing the reasons why so many refugees are leaving their countries of origin in the first place – pretty obvious in Syria. Whilst the war goes on, people will continue to leave in droves and you really cannot blame them for doing so. Whilst the factions continue to be armed, they will fight. Iran/China/Russia in one corner are arming the forces of President Assad, whilst western nations bomb with no particular objective the I.S.I.S. forces.
In places like Nigeria, where Boko Haram have been waging an extremely brutal campaign of violence, again, much of it is due to western interests. In this case it is large corporations conducting business in a way that shows no respect for or understanding of the locals. Again, many people are displaced and leaving. Again, you really cannot blame them for doing so. Living in a polluted place where oil spills have ruined the land one grows crops on, the water supply for drinking, irrigating, cleaning and so forth, and made the air hazardous to breathe. That is not humane. That is criminal.
And as for why this is a European crisis (that could become something even worse)? It is because Europe just so happens to be the first port of call for these people trying to find a better life away from the pollution, away from the bullets that western interests had so much of a shocking hand in making in the first place. And perhaps because so many of the contributing causes of this thunderstorm originated in Europe, perhaps – karma or not – it is only logical that Europe experiences it.