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Rod Liddle

Gunboats are the humanitarian answer to Libya's refugee crisis

There are two ways to solve this migrant crisis. Either we must let them all in, or we must stop them from attempting the journey

25 April 2015

9:00 AM

25 April 2015

9:00 AM

More than a thousand migrants have died attempting to get into Europe over the past week, including 900 who perished horribly, trapped in the hold of a Tunisian ship near the Libyan coast. Many thousands have died before and many thousands will die in the near future attempting the same venture unless we in Europe change our policies. Everybody is agreed that something has to be done.

For the liberal left, the answer is to sack Katie Hopkins, a fellow columnist of mine at the Sun. Not just sack her but also prosecute her and prosecute the editor of the Sun. More than 200,000 people have signed a petition got up by someone called Izzy Saunders demanding her removal from the paper because she wrote something with which they disagreed. Hopkins had written an article saying that we shouldn’t let the migrants in, that she felt no pity for them and that they were ‘cockroaches’. Seeing the news reports about the 900 dead, then, the liberal left did not send money or aid, or get up a petition to demand action to save the lives of future migrants: its response was to salve its own conscience by trying to destroy the career of someone it disagreed with.

I do not agree with Hopkins that the migrants are ‘cockroaches’ — although she meant it in the sense that they were indestructible, and had clearly written the piece before the latest tragedy — and I do feel pity for them. A lot of pity. But calling Hopkins a ‘Nazi’ and putting her in jail is just the liberal left once again trying to feel good about itself, and stamping its little feet and — as usual — trying to restrict freedom of speech.


Would jailing Katie Hopkins save the lives of Europe-bound migrants? I have my doubts. Others on the liberal left ignored Hopkins and simply demanded action, while castigating the British government and offering no solution. The reliably idiotic Dan Hodges, for example, asserted that government policy was directly responsible for the horrible deaths of those 900 people. Did he suggest what we should do about it? Nope. And the Labour leader Ed Miliband made a hugely useful contribution with a tweet saying that the people who died were among the poorest in the world and something should be done. I suppose if they had been moderately affluent it would have been less of a tragedy, Ed, you halfwit. Again, with Hodges and Miliband and the ludicrous Izzy Saunders, the response was all about infantile attitudinalising, nothing more than a wish to tell everybody else that they care more than every-body else and that therefore they are right.

Here’s the deal. There are two ways in which we can act to prevent future boatloads of migrants from drowning in the Mediterranean, and only two ways. Let them all in, or stop them trying to come. Letting them all in would certainly save more lives in the short term. It would require us to send comfortable and seaworthy boats to Libya, Syria, Tunisia and so on and allow on board anyone who wished to come, perhaps for a small nominal fee. The boats would be equipped with medical facilities and also security officers, to prevent the Muslim passengers trying to murder everyone else. That would be humane and it would undoubtedly prevent deaths at sea — and if the liberal left advanced this argument one could at least respect the logic. I think it would cause a few problems: million upon million upon million of people would come and by teatime on day one the countries of Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and most of the Sahel would be virtually deserted, just the occasional black flag left waving in the desert breeze. I don’t think we want that. But if Dan and Izzy and Ed do want that, they should say so. And think about how we might deal with the consequences.

Because there is no middle way. Sending a few more boats to float around the Med looking for people to rescue is an absurd answer and would surely lead to many more deaths. It would be like a vast aquatic version of It’s A Knockout: will the patrol boat near Sicily reach the dinghy near Capri before it capsizes and everyone dies? Oh dear no, just a few days too late — and the Somalians played their joker! Jeux sans frontières indeed. Again, the only people who advance this answer are those who do not wish to save more lives, they simply want to feel better about themselves. They are not remotely interested in outcomes, only about trying to show other people that they care.

Stopping people trying to come here is, for me, the better solution (and is basically the one advanced by the Evil Nazi Hellhound, Katie Hopkins). Make it clear there will be no rescues at all and that anyone who succeeds in reaching Europe will be sent straight back to where they came from. These traffickers set out expecting that there is a good chance they will be rescued, so remove that possibility from the equation. Use armed boats to drive back the traffickers. Make it even more clear that refugees who apply for asylum legally will always take precedent over those who come here in a cast-iron bath tub captained by some predatory Tunisian scumbag. Those who come illegally by boat will never get asylum. This stuff all works, and we have the Australian example for evidence. Their prime minister, Tony Abbott, introduced this tough approach in 2014. In the previous two years 35,000 people arrived in Australia from Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. And there were countless deaths at sea. Six months of the get-tough policy and there was not a single ‘people-smuggling venture’, as the Australians put it.

Will we feel better about ourselves? Probably not. But lives will undoubtedly be saved.


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