Do you believe in the free movement of people?
We were all born in some country or other and thereby geographically-restrained-at-birth by history, international treaties, border controls, passports and visas.
Were you lucky enough to be born in a real-as-they-get democracy? Free from conscription and war at home? Free to travel? Most people economically advantaged and well fed? Wth access to – free to at least a degree – education and healthcare?
There are fewer than 750 million people that lucky, not even ten percent of the world’s population. We were born in the larger part of Western Europe, Canada or Australasia after 1945 or the United States after 1955. Everyone else, until only twenty-five years ago, had it rougher than us. Many still do.
Imagine having been born, when you were born, in the Soviet Union or countries it occupied, in China, India, large parts of South America, in most countries in Africa. How would you have felt about the cards life had dealt you?
What would you have done about it?
Imagine living now in any country affected by war, poverty, corruption, inequality, violent criminality, environmental degradation or religious extremism.
What would you do about it?
Would you want to live somewhere else? Would you try to get somewhere else? Whatever the cost? Whatever the risk?
Why should anyone have to stay where they were unlucky enough to have been born? Why should we all not be able to go anywhere we please, live anywhere we please, work anywhere we please?
I understand that allowing free movement of people will be hugely difficult for the countries to which very many people may choose to migrate. I think we would have been better off having allowed free movement a long time before now. The rate of flow would have been slower, easier to manage.
And to disincentivise.
To do that the world needs to become a more equal place where people have less reason to want to leave their nation of origin, many more reasons to stay.
Easier said than done. It will take time.
And hard work. Particularly on the part of the destination nations. As Frankie Boyle (it takes an outspoken comedian sometimes) points out in the Guardian today many of them have historic and current responsibility for creating the circumstances which are driving so many to risk death (and to die) seeking to leave Africa for a perhaps only marginally better life in Europe.
For many different reasons, some of them racist others sensible, many of us don’t want large numbers of Africans crossing freely to Europe each summer. Whoever they are. Whysoever they want to come.
But until a lot changes migrants will continue to try to come and, however many the Italian or other navies rescue, many will die as they do so.
Paddy Ashdown says the migrant boats should be sunk before they leave port. Whoever Katie Hopkins is says they should be sunk wherever they are found at sea. I’m guessing Paddy would rescue any survivors. Hopkins would let them drown. At the other end of the solution-spectrum we could provide free, safe boats with crews and life jackets.
Which way we each lean on the matter, however far we are prepared to go to help or to hinder migration is based on a simple issue of principle.
I believe in the free movement of people. It’s a right I think we all should have. Because it’s a right I want for myself.