Borders

“Terrorism has become the systematic weapon of a war that knows no borders or seldom has a face.” The words former French president Jacques Chirac which seem as fair a description as any other. But for one group is determined that the terrorists – and not just the terrorists – will certainly come to know one border and which group certainly has a face in mind – one that is clearly not from round here.

Thus the Visegrad Group of countries has, according to Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Błaszczak, agreed on the need to focus on sealing the external borders of the European Union amid the migration crisis. The interior ministers from the group, comprising Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, met in Warsaw on Monday with delegations from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia also attending the meeting. “Visegrad states are in agreement: there should be a huge emphasis on sealing the external borders of the European Union,” Błaszczak said.

The current Polish government has made no secret since it came to power a year ago that it was not happy with the agreement by the former government to accept 7,000 migrants as part of an EU wide programme to resettle some 150,000 asylum seekers from Syria and Eritrea, currently in camps in Italy and Greece. It’s an ill wind that blows nobody no good, of course, and following the terrorist attacks in Brussels earlier this year, the Polish prime minister said that Poland would not be able to accept asylum seekers from the EU for the time being.

What to make of this? The reactionary response of a group of politicians whose countries have not known mass non-European immigration and who are therefore simply ignorant of the cultural and economic benefits immigration brings; or a pragmatic response of those who have looked elsewhere and don’t like what they see, and who would rather avoid the mistakes others have made? Prejudiced and out of date; or attuned to the electoral winds of change blowing across Europe and beyond, where folk demand that politicians get a grip and stop treating them as fools.

Part of the problem is the failure effectively to differentiate between the different folk arriving on our shores and their different needs. First the refugees, fleeing war and chaos who clearly need help and support. Second the asylum seekers who flee persecution each of whose cases should be considered on its merits. The angry young men of Calais who have made their way through any number of safe European countries to get there, fighting to board lorries crossing the Channel to the United Kingdom are very different, for example, from the Syrian family waiting patiently in a refugee camp. Third, those who simply want a better life and want to be able to work and seek opportunities not available at home. Into the mix one may add the criminal elements who are profiting from human misery and the terrorists who may use the chaos to further their aims. It is the perceived failure of governments fully to exert effective control which is causing unrest amongst electorates, helped by those with an interest in inflaming tension where tension need not exist.

Be that as it may, the Visegrad Group did announce plans to set up a migration crisis management centre to coordinate aid for refugees outside the EU, in Jordan and Lebanon, for example. Opposed to the EU wide resettlement programme, the group wishes to place a greater emphasis on migrants returning to their home countries. Such an approach would, the interior ministers said, decrease tensions and migration pressures.

The migration crisis management centre will be headed by Poland. “This is… about allocating money from the budgets of our countries for real help,” Mariusz Błaszczak said. “This is a practical initiative that will give us all the opportunity to more fully support refugees [in locations] where they are refugees, which is outside the European Union.”

Meanwhile, that arch-respecter of borders, brother Putin, continues undaunted and effectively unchallenged. From propping up Assad in Syria, to upgrading his missile stock in Kaliningrad to, allegedly, helping in the US presidential elections, his energy knows no bounds. If history has taught us anything, it is that the man with the plan will always beat the man without a plan, no matter how many friends the latter has. It’s time we had one too.

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