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The Independent View: Liberals need solutions to the migrant crisis – and conflict prevention will be key

September 11, 2015 8:02 AM
By Shaughan Dolan in Liberal Democrat Voice
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

So this was the tragedy of a Britain with open hearts and closed borders. The growing humanitarian crisis in Syria coupled with instability in North Africa is creating one greatest migrations waves seen since the end of World War II. Jordan alone has taken over 1.1 million displaced Syrians and is now suffering water shortages that could lead into larger migrations into other Middle Eastern nations.

The reaction to this has been largely isolationist policies, with commentators in the UK describing these migrants anywhere between 'cockroaches' and 'a swarm'; the narrative media focused on dehumanising those fleeing conflict.

In a political climate that creates a Prime Minister who is not afraid to compare refugees to insects or a Labour party that produces anti-immigration kitchenware, Liberals must offer distinctive solutions and steer away from divisive rhetoric - this a crisis, not a political opportunity to blame ISIS.

Increased funding for conflict prevention initiatives

Under the Coalition, conflict prevention spending reaches its highest-ever levels - £1 Billion is now invested into the Conflict Security and Stability Fund which enables UK defence, diplomacy and development to work together on peacemaking and nation building in fragile states.

Unfortunately the government spending priorities are incredibly lopsided - for every £1 spent on preventing conflict the UK government spends £35 fighting them.

If we are to stop the necessity of refugees fleeing conflict we need to refocus our foreign policy to a more preventive model - to acknowledge that dealing with the proliferation of small arms, investing in state police and courts and ending sexual violence in conflict is far more likely to prevent terror threats than a £6 billion aircraft carrier with no planes.

Increased diplomatic pressure on Gulf nations to take their fair share

Many of the wealthiest Gulf nations have actively turned away migrants fleeing the conflict in Syria. Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia all have the capacity the take on more and migrants may often settle quicker in countries with a common language, and in some cases, a common culture.

Qatar finds itself in perhaps the most ethically compromised position of all - previously funding opposition groups in Libya and Syria whilst doing little to mitigate the impact of doing so. London is surrounded by the massive the symbols of Qatari excess: the Shard, Canary Wharf, Harrods - they are choosing not to aid their fellow Muslims - and the international community needs to be asking why.

Not turning to nationalism, when only internationalism can solve the crisis

All across Europe nationalism is being offered as the antidote for an uncertain world. Any nation who turns away refugees means larger numbers of migrants in a smaller number of countries creating greater pressure on fewer resources.

Whilst nationalism may be comforting from Scotland to Sorbonne it can only compound the crisis. Nationalism creates a magnification effect - the more countries that adopt nationalists policies or rhetoric, create the environment for nationalism to thrive in other countries. What makes this even worse is that many nationalist policy platforms, particularly that of UKIP here in the UK, are likely to increase global instability and push global migration even higher.

Labour, SNP and the Conservatives are either unable or unwilling to speak out about the need for a positive plan - they would rather appeal for UKIP votes.

The only thing worse than inaction is activity that will magnify the crisis - nationalism cannot be allowed to become the altar on which Britain sacrifices its humanitarian principles.

* Shaughan Dolan is Campaigns and Communications Officer for Conscience: Taxes for Peace not War