Here is my reaction to the recent refugee boat disaster in the Mediterranean, with more than 500 dead:
I believe it is time that all of us here in the affluent West, both our governments and we as individuals, undergo serious soul-searching about how we deal with refugees.
1. We must stop using the lack of agreement within the EU as an excuse for doing nothing ourselves. To make our mercy and helpfulness dependant on that of others is a declaration of moral bankruptcy.
2. We must abandon the distinction between those fleeing war and persecution (‘genuine refugees’) and those fleeing abject poverty in their countries of origin (‘economic refugees’). It is morally reprehensible to sit here in our still comfortable circumstances, despite inflation and rising prices, and shrug our shoulders at the desperate poverty of others.
3. To refuse assistance to those in need so as not to encourage traffickers is deeply immoral. In our countries we all have the criminal offense of Failure to Render Assistance; we are collectively guilty of this towards the refugees.
4. I disagree with those who want to pit defense spending against adequate aid to those in need: The past year has shown quite clearly that external military defense is necessary, just as a functioning police force internally. And relying on the increasingly dysfunctional United States for our defense is recklessly dangerous.
5. In all of our countries there is enough savings potential in non-essential projects to be able to help much more effectively. We just have to want it and set the right priorities.
6. There are deeply indecent political parties in our countries that find it acceptable not to help strangers for some perverse ideological reason. If decent parties with a Christian or social-democratic value system pursue a “strict policy on foreigners” in order to steal votes from the indecent parties, then this is not only not very successful (because xenophobic people prefer to vote “the blacksmith than the blacksmith’s apprentice”), but also constitutes an immoral betrayal of one’s own values. Rather, what is needed are broad coalitions of the decent, even across ideological borders, in order to keep the indecent out of power.