Sanctuary for Ukrainians, sanctuary for all

by Chris Bertram on February 28, 2022

Thousands of people, at this stage mainly women, children, and the elderly, are fleeing Ukraine and seeking safety in neighbouring countries. The European Union seems to grasp what is required and is offering them sanctuary; UK ministers are briefing the media that they are doing things but aren’t doing very much. People crossing border to neighbouring countries from conflict zones is what usually happens in circumstances like this. This is why the vast majority of the world’s refugees are in countries bordering Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. When countries like Pakistan, Iran and Turkey take in refugees from war they are partly just accepting the inevitable; they are also, to some degree, sensitive to their own populations who (at least initially) may feel an obligation to people who are like themselves in religion and culture.

The European Union (and the UK) have a pretty bad recent record when it comes to refugees. They have put in place measures to prevent people from escaping their tormentors and have paid dubious regimes such as Libya to act as buffer zones and prisons. While some European countries such as Germany and Sweden can point to things they can take pride in during the Syrian war, attempts to get others such as Poland and Hungary to accept refugees failed. Denmark has pursued a zero-refugee policy, with the goal of sending people back to places like Syria. The UK is currently introducing legislation to criminalize refugees and the current Home Secretary, Priti Patel, would like to follow the Australian model of sending them off to remote locations. Ascension Island in the Atlantic has been mooted by the pro-Tory think-tank Policy Exchange.
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