Friday saw international figures come together in Toronto to debate Europe’s refugee crisis under the motion “be it resolved, give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”, words from Emma Lazarus’ poem that is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.
The Munk Debates, which attract high profile speakers such as Tony Blair and the late Christopher Hitchens, draw international interest having been broadcast on C-SPAN and the BBC.
The ‘pro’ side arguing in favour of the motion—represented by former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour and British historian Simon Schama— involved liberally quoting lines from Lazarus’ poem about “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” and equating millions of Muslims from around the globe with previous waves of intra-European migration and emigration of Europeans to the USA. Schama said that, as his Jewish refugee grandparents had assimilated, so too would the millions of Muslims coming from zones riven with religious violence while Arbour argued that World War II gives Europe a special responsibility to take migrants.
Opposing, writer Mark Steyn took a very different approach to the idealistic and theoretical arguments of his opponents’, presenting startling facts of the situation such as that after last year’s influx of refugees and migrants Sweden’s male to female ratio is now even more skewed than that of China, whose one-child policy incentivises the aborting of female foetuses, where it is estimated that 34 million men will be unable to find wives.
Following Arbour’s suggestion that the wave of Muslims from very conservative cultures might transform society for the better Steyn blasted back by asking which aspects of Afghan, Syrian and Sudanese culture she would like to see adopted, pointing to the countries’ records on LGBT and women’s rights, child brides, FGM and commitment to free speech.
Referring to the lines in Lazarus’ poem that Arbour drew heavily from in her speech Steyn points out that rather than “yearning to breathe free”, this wave of people from repressive cultures are driven by economic motives and the influx is resulting in unprecedented waves of sexual violence on European women.
Revealing the horrifying realities on the ground in Europe, as a result of the presence of more than a million refugees, Steyn described how “a fortnight after acing a training course on treating women with respect” a 15 year old Afghan dragged a Belgian caterer at a refugee centre down to the basement and raped her.
Crediting her as the first prosecutor to charge rape as a crime against humanity and the author of several reports on rape as a “weapon of war”. Arbour looked uncomfortable as Steyn pointed to the 500 cases of sexual assault on just one night in Cologne and the gang rape children as young as 7 and even just 3 years old that have resulted from this refugee influx. Later, when given opportunity to rebut her opponents’ arguments, Arbour responds by claiming that, growing up in 1960s Canada, feminists of her generation had “all their rights and privileges” dictated to them by religion and that they didn’t change this with right-wing “arguments of exclusion”.
Farage used his speech to draw attention to the fact that the 1951 Convention on Refugees’ defines a refugee as someone who is persecuted due to their race, religion or nationality etc and slammed European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s broadening of “refugee” to also include people in extreme poverty, pointing out that this definition might encompass the billion people. He drew applause when criticising what he characterised as the cowardice of the political establishment’s failure to talk about the plight of Christians in Iraq and Syria who “are now only 10 per cent of what they were a few years ago.”
Contrasting his memory of Ugandan Asian refugees arriving in Britain “humble, thankful and promising that they would repay the debt Britain had shown them by integrating and becoming part of our society” with the “aggressive young men” who he says comprise the majority of today’s would-be refugees Farage declared, powerfully, that “there is no one on this side of the argument saying that all Muslims are bad” but that their arrival in such large numbers has resulted in the “once-sleepy city of Malmo” now being the “rape capital of Europe.”
Responding to Simon Schama’s assumption that, because previous waves of migrants had assimilated, this wave would be no different Farage echoed his shocking claims last year of some Muslim migrants posing a threat to the security of European nations, differentiating the current refugee crisis from “any other migratory or refugee wave in the history of mankind” in that “never before have we had a fifth column living in our communities that hates us, wants to kills us and wants to overturn our complete way of life.”
Speaking of terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris, for which ISIS claimed responsibility, Arbour claimed closing the borders would pay into the terrorist group’s hands as their goals are not religious but instead driven by a desire to “destroy Western democracy”, which she claims revolves around openness and tolerance to other cultures. Contradicting this idea Farage referred to Europol estimates of there being 5000 jihadi fighters in Europe who arrived as refugees warning, “When Isis say they will use the migrant routes to destroy the civilization of Europe I suggest we start to take them seriously.”
Prior to the debate most of room’s 3000-strong audience were in favour of the motion, which argued that Western nations have a “moral imperative to assist as many refugees as they possibly can”, but following the powerful case against, made by UKIP leader Nigel Farage and writer and human rights activist Mark Steyn, the decisive majority of 77 per cent who’d supported the motion was slashed to just 55 per cent – a victory, in debating rules, to Steyn and Farage for obtaining the greatest swing of votes.