Conservative MP Adam Holloway took time in the House of Commons chamber yesterday to explain how economic migration and differs from the mainstream media narrative of refugees when discussing Europe’s migrant crisis.
Parliamentary rebel, former army officer, and veteran journalist Holloway delivered a deliberately worded 15-minute speech during the immigration emergency debate yesterday, highlighting some of the confused thinking and double standards at work around the crisis. Batting off criticism from other, emotionally-driven members of the chamber, Holloway explained the black-and-white thinking surrounding the debate prevented nuanced understanding of the issues at hand, replying to one interruption that “it is quite possible to be both a refugee and an economic migrant.
“I think that’s the appalling truth of the Syrian bodies that are being washed up on the beaches. They previously reached safe countries and then chose to come to Europe.”
Quoting an Al-Jazeera article reporting the situation on the European front-line in Greece, Holloway related the elevated importance of Syrian refugees within Europe, who are perceived by both domestic politicians and other immigrants as being in receipt of special treatment. Syrians were having to take action to distance themselves from other migrants, he said, as Pakistanis, Afghans, and Iraqis were also claiming to be Syrians too in hope of getting an easier ride.
His comments, and the report are borne out by recent developments in Germany, where police have intercepted “several” packages stuffed with Syrian passports being smuggled into the country, where they would be sold to economic migrant hopefuls in a country where Syrians are now given asylum all but automatically.
The packages are part of an already booming trade in fake Syrian documents in Turkey, where according to the chief of the European border force FRONTEX: “A lot of people get into Turkey Syrian fake papers, because they know that they’ll get easier asylum in the EU… People who use these fake passports, speak mostly Arabic. They come from North Africa, the Middle East, but are economic refugees”.
Holloway said: “Large numbers of people from dozens of countries in Africa and the Middle East are seeking new lives for themselves in Europe. And the numbers have and will grow, as long as we continue to reward these journeys with the opportunity to settle in Europe.
“Listening to some sections of the media, you could be forgiven for thinking that all are desperate and terrified people fleeing war and persecution – and many certainly are, but by no means the majority”.
He contrasted the present migratory flow, which is almost all male and of fighting age, to refugee movements he had himself witnessed when serving with the British Army and as an investigative reporter, where he went undercover as a deaf and dumb Bosnian Muslim and spent weeks embedded with a “great convoy of escaping Bosnian Muslims and Croats”. Of his experiences in the past, he said:
“When populations flee war or famine, they generally flee together: the elderly and the infants, women as well as men.
“The current migrants, though, are overwhelmingly working-age males and all of them have paid a hefty price to make the trip. Most of the countries they coming from are certainly poor, but they are not at war. It costs thousands to board a smuggler’s boat, to say nothing of the cost of travelling – often for many months – to the boats.
“The flow is of often wealthier, better educated people – because the sad reality is that they are the ones with the money to pay to the people traffickers”.
Speaking straight or not, Holloway’s sagely words didn’t fall on sympathetic ears everywhere.
In the chamber, one Labour MP claimed migrants were still drowning while attempting to reach inspiration state Australia, despite there not having been a single migrant boat, or death, in over a year. In the national media, reaction to the speech was limited – and concentrated on Holloway’s throwaway remark that his barber shop of choice had closed last week as it’s immigrant proprietor had gone on holiday – back to the war-zone from which he had claimed asylum in Britain.
Watch: Adam Holloway MP’s House of Commons Barnstormer: