The thousands of migrants risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean are a small fraction of those wishing to settle in Europe. Quite simply, says KEN HOUSTON, the numbers are unsustainable

Does the human tragedy currently being played out in the Mediterranean have any relevance to a Scottish business website?

Yes, it does.

For a start, and despite what some elements on the Left claim, business people do have hearts and most will be as distressed as any public sector social worker or welfare rights officer by the almost daily news reports of wretched migrants, in particular children, drowning while attempting to gain entry to Europe.

But the sheer weight of the numbers involved means the situation also holds implications for our own wee kailyard.

The images of human misery have led to calls for Europe to open ‘legal channels’ of immigration as a means of saving lives and were the current ‘boat people’ just a temporary phenomenon that would seem the most sensible as well as humane solution.

However, according to the BBC last Thursday night, half a million people are currently waiting in Libya for their chance to cross the Med and another 500,000 are on their way to the troubled post-Gaddafi state for the same reason.

Recently one native entrepreneur opined that as many as 50 per cent of the population of Africa would migrate to Europe if permitted to do so. While this may be a bit of an exaggeration, it seems reasonable to infer that perhaps around 10 per cent of Africans would move north in search of a better life if EU member-states were to relax their border controls.

Current estimates put the population of Africa at 1.116 billion (one billion equating to one thousand million), which is projected to rise to 2 billion within the next 35 years. Therefore, if that 10 per cent were to head north – legally -within the next few years, the EU would face an influx of 116 million immigrants, equating to around 22.5 per cent of the current combined population (506 million) of the 27 member-states.

A policy of spreading the new migrants on a pro rata basis around the Community would inevitably follow. Based on a mixture of GDP and existing population levels the United Kingdom might be expected to take around one-eighth, or over 14 million. As for Scotland’s role, it is inconceivable that the SNP-led Government, under the current leadership, would do anything other than agree to accommodate at least 10 per cent on a population comparison basis – i.e. around one and a half million.

These figures, incidentally, do not take any account of migrants from the Middle East or the Indian sub-continent attempting to resettle in Europe.

Some may describe the above as scaremongering based on supposition and, yes, the suggestion than 10 per cent of Africa might want to come to Europe is based largely on anecdotal evidence from current and recent media analysis. However even if just 5, 4 or 3 per cent were permitted to migrate to the EU, the outcome would still be massive economic and societal change.

A huge over-supply of labour, especially within the unskilled jobs markets, is one likely consequence, in which case it is difficult to envisage the UK’s national minimum wage managing to survive in real terms – far less the ‘national living wage’ to which Left-leaning politicians aspire.

This might seem like manna from heaven for some employers but any advantage would be short-lived given the knock-on effect of pressure on schools, hospitals and other public services.

Even our ‘Access card’ Holyrood government (remember the catch-phrase, ‘Takes the waiting out of wanting’?) might find it difficult to borrow sufficient funds to cope with the situation.



Despite these statistics, there are still plenty of  voices given generous amounts of airspace on radio and television calling for funds to be put in place to rescue every individual from every rickety ship and, eventually, allowing them (whether genuine asylum-seeker or just an economic immigrant on the make) to settle permanently in Europe.

These include UN refugee agency workers stationed at various Italian ports who, dressed in hi-viz blue gilets, are regularly beamed into our living rooms as the drama in the Med unfolds.

What may strike many about this personnel is the fact is that they are young, articulate, obviously well-educated and speak excellent English.

So have they left behind the chance of a comfortable, well-remunerated career in Europe or North America to devote their lives to unfortunates from the Third World?

Well, yes and no.

Not all are volunteers in the accepted sense but hold salaried positions as Junior Professional Officers (JPO’s), sponsored by various governments but paid through the UNHCR. Therefore it is unsurprising that they will parrot the position of the folks who pay their wages.

I am not, of course, suggesting that these people are not motivated by a desire to help their fellow man: candidates for the posts must have “keen and demonstrated interest in the United Nations and humanitarian issues, in particular, and ability to live and/or serve in hardship locations”, according to the UNHCR.

However another minimum qualification is “a degree equivalent to a Bachelor’s Degree or a Master’s Degree in a field equivalent and/or relevant to the functions requested in the job description.”

The age-range is 25 to 32 years (perhaps not old enough to be completely street-wise) and placements are for two to four years.

And after that?

Tellingly, the UNHCR also says that “The JPO programme gives successful candidates an introduction to international humanitarian aid work, and helps put him/her on an international career track.”



The tragedy has led to several letters in the press from guilt-ridden liberals who have used the Mediterranean as a metaphor for comparisons between our own comfortable lifestyles and the fate of the migrants.

“Very soon many of us will be splashing around enjoying ourselves in the same waters where people desperate to escape war, famine and poverty are drowning,” to paraphrase one.

So here’s a suggestion for those so concerned.

If you have not already booked a summer holiday this year, why not donate the money instead to a charity working with the refugees? Or if booked for this year, take the decision to forego next year’s holiday and donate the cost-equivalent nearer the time?

Any takers?

Thought not.

Twitter: @PropPRMan




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