Hear now, the wisdom on Boromir: "One does not simply..." And when it comes to the migrant crisis much has been said of the simple solution. Petitions for the UK to open its arms to the migrants almost outnumber the number of people signing them. I agree with the moral sentiment but find the arguments so reductive that I've written this blog post to at least force others to think about the issue more deeply.
Consider an analogy: a man lies on the road bleeding from a wound at his side. As you approach he gasps "water!" Given the choice between a) stopping the bleeding or b) providing the man with water the kind and loving thing to do is stopping the bleeding. In fact, if you gave the man a drink and didn't stop the bleeding it would turn an otherwise kind act into an act of cruelty. To look it another way: treating symptoms is only a very short term measure; in the long term the root cause of a problem has to be dealt with.
Like the glass of water, opening our borders to the migrants is a small token of kindness that does absolutely nothing to solve the migrant crisis. The more we welcome, the more will come, for what inspires these desperate people to leave their homes but hope? And the more we give, as a society, to welcome migrants in, the more will be demanded of us.
Please, don't mistake me, this is not saying we shouldn't open our borders. But we need to do so fully aware of what a pathetic response it is, given the magnitude of the crisis.
There are deeper questions to: are we just trading the visible deaths on a beach for the invisible deaths of hundreds of thousands of migrants lost to the sex trade, illegal work and oppression? Having escaped from one nightmare, they could well find another in Europe.
The UK has a finite ability to take on migrants, we can't open our doors to all of them, as much as we might wish to. So if we open our border, for how long and how many? When do we turn people away? How do we turn people away? Do we prioritise certain migrants now, knowing our ability to help is finite?
And like the bleeding man, I can't help but wonder if opening borders is actually the loving thing to do. The root cause of the migrant crisis is a number of countries lost to civil war and religious extremism, broken and ruined by Islamic fundamentalism. To welcome migrants and yet refuse to try and solve this problem seems as cruel as not stopping the bleeding of a wounded man.
As war weary as this nation is, we can't have it both ways. If you want the government to accept migrants you are recognising that we, as moral human beings, have a responsibility to help those in need. And if this is our responsibility then it extends beyond simply opening borders. We cannot accept responsibility for a symptom without addressing the cause.
For every petition to let the migrants in, logically, there should be one for military intervention in Syria and the other ruined countries. Yet this is unpalatable to most people. Does this mark the limit of our love? In a guilt ridden response to a three year olds death we decide that we can share our home with the needy. That's a good start. But when it comes to their home, the countries they have left, do we lack the love to help there too?
Love and war seem polar opposite, but it a war could bring lasting peace would it be worth it? Can we fire bullets in love against the evils of the Islamic State, fighting for countries which will provide safe havens and places of prosperity rather than destruction?
As a Christian, it seems expected of me to support open borders wholeheartedly and to cry for peace, and all because of some idealised view of love being devoid of any wisdom or some view of the world were there are no hard choices. But I must disagree with this naive and simplistic picture of love. Mass migration, the like of which we are seeing, is bad for the host country, often bad for the migrant and bad for the country that is left.
The poorest are left behind to suffer, unable to afford to move. The well off flee, to lives in camps that make no use of their skills or talents, often getting sucked into illegal and dangerous work. And a country loses the very people that could help re-build it, when peace comes. Yet, who can blame someone for fleeing when conditions are so bad?
Opening our borders will have many unintended and negative consequences, and how long will our love last? Will we grow tired after a few years and start to oppress the very people we welcomed in love? While I think we cannot turn these people away, opening our borders isn't going to solve anything and this has to be recognised. My reservations are deep and were the plight even a fraction less I would want to keep the borders closed.
As for military intervention, I think there is now a moral duty on us to intervene. Having done it so badly to Afghanistan and Iraq, it will be hard to believe this can help. But staying on the sidelines, watching the Middle East disintegrate and countries fall to extremism is more unpalatable. If we have a duty to help the migrants this means resolving more than just the crisis at the town of Calais. Our love has to extend beyond the deaths of those on the beaches of Europe.
I think that an evil so great as to cause hundreds of thousands of people to flee to Europe is an evil that has to be fought. I think that opening borders to migrants while doing nothing to bring peace to their home countries is a cruel and inconsistent act of love. We can afford ourselves no illusions, one does not simply solve the migrant crisis and we fool ourselves if the only answer is to open our borders. And we fool ourselves double if we pretend that this is an easy question to answer.