Monday, 7 October 2013

Europe cannot go on sealing borders, we have to recognise our common humanity

My first reaction to Jim Murphy being moved to the Shadow International Development post  - good news for international development.

If anyone can lever the issue up the political agenda it is Jim Murphy. He is one of the few recognisable Shadow Ministers and one of the few who has actually made the political weather in his job while colleagues have been invisible.

Moving him to International Development does not mean Murphy is off the map either, regardless of those who cheer about a "cull of Blairites".

Murphy fell out badly with Ed Miliband over the Syria vote and that may have been their final undoing. The Shadow Defence Secretary wanted Labour to support Cameron's plan to back military action (he was Shadow Defence Secretary, how could he not?).

Murphy felt that the Tories would not forget the doublecross and get their vengeance in the first military venture that a future Labour government might propose. 

I'm not sure how wise it was of Miliband to move Murphy, keep your friends close and your enemies closer and all that.

The Labour leader might think he has exiled a possible rival to the outback of international development, but remember how MacDuff was exiled to England by MacBeth. MacDuff came back, and took out MacBeth.

Plotting aside, here's a note for Murphy's in-tray from my column in today's Daily Record:

Lampedusa, a dot of an island in the Mediterranean, is the new Checkpoint Charlie between the divided northern and southern hemispheres.

The death of over 300 African refugees on Italian shores must give Europe pause for thought on how we handle immigration.

Islanders boycott the local fish because of the human remains they feed on. The seas around their island is a graveyard for over 20,000 migrants this century alone.

This isn't a new problem. Over a decade ago I spent time with African refugees in a tented detention centre in Ceuta, the Spanish enclave in Morocco.

In the gathering dusk we stared at the glittering lights of Europe across the straits. Many of these men, the strongest and the bravest who had walked out of war and famine, would have died risking the swim to the promised land.

Europe cannot go on sealing its borders and pretending not to see what is happening on our southern flank.

We have to recognise our common humanity here. We were all migrants at one time - half of Ireland, a third of Italy and, one way or another, large parts of the Scottish population moved abroad in the 19th and 20th centuries.

There should be more search and rescue and disruption missions in the Mediterranean and a renewed focus on resolving the conflicts that cause refugees.

The long term answers are in developing the economies of African nations. Migrants themselves are the answer to this.

UK immigrants send £2 billion in remittances back to the developing world each year, just as my mother sent two-thirds of her first wages back from Glasgow to her Scottish island home.

Europe actually needs more low-skilled workers in the next two decades, and new legal routes to meet the labour demands of the continent.

We cannot leave immigration policy to the mafia smugglers, the modern day slave traders sending leaking vessels on the dangerous route out of Africa.

Remember that when politicians demand cuts to the 0.7 per cent of our wealth we commit to international development.

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