An extract from my latest column for the International New York Times on the migrant crisis and the supposed ‘cultural gap’ between Eastern and Western Europe:
Judging by the newspapers lately, one might be forgiven for thinking that until Hungary started putting up fences, the European Union had open borders and welcomed migrants with kindness and gentleness. In fact, over the past 25 years, the union has constructed what many justly call ‘Fortress Europe’, keeping out migrants not with fences but with warships, helicopters and surveillance drones. One of the reasons that migrants are now coming through the Balkans is because patrols have blocked off other southern routes, particularly from Libya into Italy.
Hungary’s treatment of migrants has been brutal, but are its policies that different from those adopted by Britain or France?
Some 3,000 migrants currently live in what is, in effect, Europe’s largest shantytown, on the outskirts of Calais, in northern France. A report this month by the University of Birmingham and Doctors of the World described conditions as “diabolical” in what is known as the Jungle, with tents overrun by rats, water contaminated by feces and inhabitants suffering from tuberculosis. ‘I lived like this in Darfur’, one resident told a journalist. ‘I could not believe a place like this existed in Europe.’
The migrants are confined to the Jungle because Britain refuses to let what Prime Minister David Cameron called ‘a swarm’ cross the English Channel. Were the Jungle in Hungary or Poland, there would no doubt be an outcry. Yet few historians or journalists have bothered to write furious condemnations of the xenophobia exposed by this abomination on Britain’s doorstep.
Read the full article in the International New York Times.