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The Big Debate: Should Britain have an “open-door” policy towards refugees?

Yes

Before I begin my side of this debate – which is, of course, ‘yes’ – I would like to pose a question to my readers: If a member of your family; a sibling, grandparent, cousin; came to you in desperate need of help, what would you do?

Would you turn them away on the grounds that you didn’t want to share your house? Would you disregard their pleas for money because you wanted to save more for yourself?

No, the answer is always no.

You would do anything to help your family, even if it meant sacrificing the materials most precious to you. So, why not refugees?

I understand you’re not related to them, you don’t know them, they’re not even remotely close to you geographically, in essence, they’re not your problem.

Wrong.

We are all humans coexisting on this earth, we have families, friends, children that we care about; jobs, houses, past times, treasured memories which no-one has the right to take away from us.

But, imagine if you did experience the loss of everything you held close in the face of terror, and were then turned away by the rest of the world. This horrific sentiment is widely shared by refugees and asylum seekers fleeing for safety, and I say that the least we can do is open our doors to help them.

An open door policy allows us to ‘love thy neighbour’, a value that should be shared by everyone.  I believe refugees need to be treated as not only humans by our government, but family; valued individuals of this earth and certainly not as animals or ‘swarms’.

It’s true that resources and finance are finite in our country, but I’m not going to argue this debate in terms of economics or government policies, as ignorant as that may seem. I’m arguing on moral ground.

I’d like to ask our political leaders who have the precious ability to bring about this open door policy, where is their compassion?

How many images of drowned infants, of terrified families, of humans packed like livestock into boats will it take to open their eyes and maybe even their hearts?

Imagine how desperate one must be to put the lives of one’s children at risk in order to seek a better life. They are not here for any other reason than to beg for safety. It pains my heart to know that there are still thousands who are not being granted that right.

However, I am touched whenever I see acts of human kindness progressing across the country to help. Millions have been attending donation events in major cities in order to collect precious food and warm clothes to distribute to refugees at crisis points such as Calais.

Additionally, the Archbishop of Canterbury has even opened the doors of Lambeth Palace to offer a safe residence for those in need.

I would strongly encourage the government to rethink its decisions and appeal for political leaders to follow in the steps that are already being taken to aid our family on this planet. An ‘open door’ policy is the next logical and ethical progression to ending this crisis, as well as ensuring further peace and harmony.

 

Molly Masters

 


 

No

On the subject of whether Britain should have an open door policy towards refugees, I will argue that it should not. However, despite the immediate reaction that this might provoke among readers of this debate, I believe I can make my argument without resorting to points which are either xenophobic or nationalist.

Both of these viewpoints involve a failure to recognise the facts of the situation (along with the essential humanity shared by all involved) and so are unhelpful in working out how best to help those who seek refuge in other nations.

Alongside this, while my argument may appear cold and detached from the ‘human’ element of the current crisis, I hope to show that this is necessary in order to have a compassionate approach that will help the majority of refugees.

Ultimately, I want to show that this is a question which should be asked of the EU as a whole, rather than any specific member-state.

I take it as a given that Britain has limited resources for such a situation. These resources can be stretched and more could possibly be found, but they are not unlimited. There are already people in the UK who are going without support that they need.

This is not to say that UK residents should always be prioritised when it comes to such support; I am also taking it as a given that situations such as the current refugee crisis show that there are problems which transcend nationality and affect us as people, rather than citizens.

This is why we need to find a way to take in as many refugees as we can. However, this is also why we need to make sure that our resources are not stretched too far.

We need to be able to guarantee the following to anyone seeking refuge: safe and secure accommodation with access to clean water and heating; medical services and psychological support; food and clothing of decent quality. If we take in too many refugees then we cannot make this guarantee.

Rather than expecting any single member of the EU to have an open door policy, we should instead ask whether the EU as a whole might adopt this approach.

Each nation would be assigned a quota (which both serves as a limit and also an ideal goal) based on the resources that they appear to have. If this is put into practice then we would not need to concern ourselves with national open door policies.

Rather, we would always know how many refugees a nation has taken and how many more it can accommodate. If it reaches a point where there appears to be ‘no more room’ (which, given the size of the EU and the resources available to many of its members, is unlikely) then steps can be taken to amend the system so that no-one seeking refuge will be turned away.

Put simply, this is an international problem best solved by an international strategy. What is important is that we do something, but what we do must not treat refugees as addendums to our nations.

Rather, we need a way to welcome those who have left their home nations by necessity instead of choice and make sure that they are cared for to the very best of our ability. No single nation can be expected to do this by itself, so it follows that no single nation can be expected to have an open door policy.

However, the EU as a whole can come together (as it has begun to) in order to lessen the plight of refugees.

 

Alastair Gray

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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