Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

Force of Numbers

Are we about to see an example of governments’ hands being forced by pure force of numbers?

Hungarian riot police have fired tear gas [into Serbia] and water cannon to force migrants back from the Serbia-Hungary border.

Hundreds of people have massed at a closed crossing point near the Serbian town of Horgos, and are involved in a tense stand-off with police on the other side of the border.

Some migrants threw missiles, including stones and water bottles.
BBC News Website, 16 September 2015 : Migrant crisis: Clashes at Hungary-Serbia border

We have seen tear gas and water cannon used, but these migrants (the type of migration and reason for migration is immaterial) have committed a lot of time and money to get this far, have endured numerous deprivations and believe that within the EU there lies a better life. They may also have a different attitude to the sanctity of borders – seeing them as artificial constructs imposed by others rather than our view of a border defining our land.

What happens when say a thousand Syrians rush a Serbian-Hungarian border post?

Are we prepared to see the use of bullets?

This crisis is a migration that has evolved beyond previous ones. The migrants, via smart phones, have access to information and using social media can communicate with one another.

The EU has proclaimed itself as an exemplar of secure prosperity and freedom. The UK runs advertising campaigns overseas on the theme Britain is GREAT. The British Council and the English Speaking Union have done an excellent job in making English a world language – one that is often spoken as a second language by people in the Middle East and Africa as well as widely across Europe. Is it a surprise so many want to join us in the EU?

We have shown that we are not prepared to see hundreds or thousands of migrants drown in the Mediterranean, so I suspect that when push comes to shove on land borders we will crack rather than shoot.

Yet supporting migrants in refugee camps was costing about £2.50 per person per day (ref: BBC Zaatari refugee camp: £320,000 per day for 110,000 refugees) – until the funds started to run out.

For months the World Food Programme (WFP) has been cutting aid to the bone due to a lack of donations. It reduced the monthly stipend for about 211,000 Syrians by half.

At the beginning of September it went further. Almost 230,000 Syrian refugees – living in cities, not camps – had their aid stopped entirely. Help is still being provided for 100,000 living in camps, but there, too, funds could run out in November.
BBC News Website 11 September 2015 : Aid cuts driving Jordan’s Syrian refugees to risk all

So funding 330,000 Syrian refugees at about £2.50per day will cost the international community about £300M per year. For comparison purposes:

What is the current (full) cost of the chaos on the EU’s southern borders – and what will that cost rise to if the crisis goes hot and a Hungarian soldier (or a Romanian or Croatian, or …) opens fire?* What if the shots across a border kills another country’s soldier?

Serbia’s foreign ministry has protested over the firing of tear gas and water cannon into its territory.
BBC News Website, 16 September 2015 : Migrant crisis: Clashes at Hungary-Serbia border

* The comparison is not entirely fair because not all the migrants are Syrian Refugees and the alternative (living in a refugee camp) is not sustainable. But understanding the orders of magnitude of the support that the likes of the World Food Program needs is instructive. The UK Overseas Aid spending target of 0.7 per cent of GDP, comes to £11.7 billion.

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One thought on “Force of Numbers

  1. BBC News Website reports:

    Crowds of migrants crossing from Serbia have broken through riot police lines on the Croatian border at Tovarnik.

    Croatia is struggling to deal with at least 6,000 arrivals since Wednesday morning after Hungary closed its border with Serbia, blocking the previous route into the European Union.

    Croatian officials say migrants must apply for asylum there or be treated as illegal immigrants.

    EU leaders will hold an emergency summit next week to discuss the crisis.

    There were chaotic scenes at Tovarnik as riot police tried to hold back hundreds of migrants, angry at waiting for hours in intense heat for transport on from the border.BBC Website 17 September 2015 : Migrants break through Croatian police lines at Tovarnik

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