The news that Australia is refusing to join the UN’s Global Compact for Migration will cause howls of complaint at home and abroad. “Don’t you know what you are doing?” these people will cry. “Do you see who you are allied with? The US and Hungary. Really?”
The Australian government should ignore these howlers. For it is not the government of Malcolm Turnbull, or those in Hungary or the US, that is wrong. It is the UN, which keeps trying to push mass migration on to nation-states and whose officials imagine that the answer to the existence of some porous, poor and failed states is to make the world one great porous, poor and failed state. Nation-states have the right to resist this pressure, and they should.
Yet one of the most startling facts about migration in recent years has been that the greatest plaudits continue to go to those who are most reckless in their policies, while the most abuse goes to those who are most prudent. Perhaps this is because grandstanding and virtue-signalling are cheap. You can almost always get other people to pay for them.
Nobody in recent years has made so impulsive and catastrophic a decision as German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Her 2015 decision to open the borders of Europe to anyone who made it there is having consequences that will roll out for years to come. Yet even as the German public turns against her and her party, she continues to be lauded across the international opinion-forming classes. Despite unleashing social and security problems across an entire continent, organs of international elite opinion and Merkel’s fellow world leaders continue to give her an easy ride. At worst she was “well-intentioned” and “naive”, they say. By contrast, the leaders of countries that refuse to accept open-borders, mandatory migrant quotas and the like are the ones that come in for execration and attack.
Nevertheless, the rule of law and the protection of the social stability and security situation in countries such as Australia are worth defending, whatever the pushback. The Australian delegation at the UN in New York was right to state that the UN had “failed to make clear distinctions between regular and irregular migrants and between refugees and migrants”. These distinctions matter. Indeed they are vital. For they are not only a defence of the law but also a prudent response to a challenge that is only going to grow. For countries that fail to secure their borders in the end cannot secure their people either.
Take my own country, Britain. More than a year has passed since it was rocked by three Islamist terror attacks. The first attack, on Westminster Bridge, claimed the lives of five innocent people including a police officer who was stabbed to death by the attacker inside the gates of Parliament. The second attack, at the Manchester Arena, killed 22 mainly young people and maimed and injured hundreds more. They were victims of a young suicide bomber who waited for them in the lobby as they streamed out of an Ariana Grande concert. In the third attack, a fortnight later, three men rampaged across London Bridge in a van and then ran through Borough Market slashing at the throats of passers-by, targeting women. While doing this they were heard to shout “This is for Allah”. Their attack injured 48 and stole the lives of eight people.
The dead that night included two Australians. Sara Zelenak, 21, was stabbed through the neck. Kirsty Boden, 28, a nurse, was stabbed through the chest as she ran to help other victims of the attack. After the third attack British Prime Minister Theresa May announced that “enough is enough”. But the truth is that she is incapable of acting because like the rest of us she is a hostage of the asylum and migration policies of her predecessors.
One year on from those attacks and that statement, the government’s only initiative has been the appointment of an “extremism commissioner”. After half a year that appointee (anti-extremism activist Sara Khan) has announced that her first priority is to gather evidence about “all forms of extremism in the UK”. So “enough is enough” turns out to mean: “We will appoint a commissioner who will appoint a board to look into unrelated issues.”
Of course one wishes Khan well. But here is one bitter truth that I bet Khan’s commission will not look into. Among last year’s attackers, most should never have been in Britain in the first place.
The Westminster Bridge attacker, a convert to Islam, was indeed born in Britain. But the Manchester Arena bomber should never have been there. His father was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, an al-Qa’ida affiliate. Back in the 1990s the LIFG was opposed to Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi, and he returned the favour. So when the situation in Libya got too hot for Ramadan Abedi and his wife they decamped to Britain, where they were given asylum. Weeks later their son Salman was born in Manchester.
Twenty-two years later he would repay the country that gave his parents sanctuary by detonating an explosive packed with nuts and bolts to cause maximum damage to the young skulls and spines into which they ripped.
Just this past week a British newspaper revealed that in 2014 the Royal Navy saved Salman Abedi along with other British nationals from the civil war in Libya. HMS Enterprise rescued him and 100 other British nationals when the security situation in that country deteriorated. What was he doing there? Why were he and his family ever in Britain? And why did Britain keep paying the family’s travel expenses whenever they felt like visiting the country they allegedly had fled?
An even clearer story emerges from the London Bridge attackers. And it has been even less discussed. The three perpetrators that night were Youssef Zaghba, 22; Khuram Butt, 27; and Rachid Redouane, 30. Zaghba and Redouane were born in Morocco, an entirely peaceful and pleasant country. An inquest after the attack found that Redouane had entered Britain using a false name, claiming to be Libyan, and he was five years older than he had pretended. He had been refused asylum under his false Libyan identity, exhausted his further appeals, absconded and lived under his Moroccan identity instead. So again, why was he in Britain? What was he doing for us? What did Britain get out of this deal?
The case of Butt is even more shameful. He had been born in Pakistan and was described as having arrived in Britain as a “child refugee” in 1998, his family having moved to the UK to claim asylum based on “political oppression”. What nobody has been able to explain since is why, other than saving al-Qa’ida fighters from Libya, Britain’s immigration services in the 190s were still giving “asylum” to people from Pakistan.
Pakistan in the 90s was not in a state of war. The country is — for good or ill — an ally of Britain and about as stable a country as you get in that region. His family does not appear to be among the numerous religious minorities so eagerly persecuted by the Muslim majority in Pakistan. So why was Butt in Britain? What exactly did he bring to Britain in the years that followed?
After the London Bridge attack May and London mayor Sadiq Khan eagerly launched into a debate about the role that internet companies had in tackling terror.
It is an interesting debate. But it had nothing to do with that attack. So far as is known there was no subterranean online jihadist activity going on. In fact the attackers and their associates could hardly have been more out in the open. The year before the London Bridge attack Butt was even on British television as was one of the stars of a Channel 4 show: The Jihadis Next Door. So he wasn’t exactly hiding. He was starring on prime time. May and Khan didn’t need to sit on the tech companies to avert an atrocity such as London Bridge. They just needed to turn on their televisions.
When something is staring you in the face and you ignore it, there is always a reason. One conclusion that I have come to over the years I have been covering the story of extremism and terrorism in Europe is that the one connection nobody in power wants is between anything negative and anything to do with migration. There is a reason: which is that this is a problem they have brought us.
Of course every religion and ideology can produce nutters. But it still does not make any sense — indeed, it could be said to be a form of madness — to import forms of extremism we used not to have. And this — for politicians in Britain and Europe — is the toxic underbelly of this debate. We have had, on continental Europe even more than in Britain, plenty of violent ideologies and creeds of our own. But Islamic extremism is an imported problem. A problem our politicians imported in the post-war period right up to the present.
Obviously that isn’t to say that all those people who have come from Pakistan and other Muslim countries are terrorists. Clearly not. But they have too many people among them who profess an ideology that countries such as ours are not just slow but reluctant to recognise. And if those people who have come to our countries legally show the mess of our system, what hope do we have with illegal migration at the level that supranational organisations such as the EU and UN think is perfectly fine?
A great problem for the pro-mass migration panjandrums is that the public can make all the obvious connection with our own eyes. But our politicians are incapable of providing answers. And it is not as though the answers are easy. For instance, what do you do with citizens who hate the state they are in? For most Europeans this is an unanswerable question. But because a question cannot be answered or is hard to answer, it does not follow that the question must not be asked. Yet there, for the time being Britain, like the rest of western Europe, uncomfortably sits.
I am often asked by Australian friends what differences exist between Europe and Australia in these matters. And on my tour of Australia this month I look forward to hearing and learning more about this. But, broadly speaking, from the outside it looks to me like there are two clear differences.
The first is in your immigration policies. To the fury of many campaigners in Australia and abroad, a generation of Australian politicians, from John Howard onwards, made the most important realisation of all. They realised that you have a country or you don’t. And if you have a country you have to have borders and rules. Unlike Merkel and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, John Howard and Tony Abbott in particular knew the difference between “legal” and “illegal” immigration is not some tiny technicality to be got around by a phalanx of human rights lawyers. The difference between legal and illegal immigration is the law. The law that Australia’s representatives at the UN have once again necessarily and heroically upheld. Because if you don’t have the law then you don’t have much of a state either.
The second difference is that Australia seems to still have (though this may be on the wane) some residual common sense of a kind that appears to be almost absent in my country. There seems to remain in Australia a strain of perfectly legitimate opinion that still finds it acceptable to say: “If you don’t like it here then why don’t you hop it?” In Britain and most of western Europe anybody who uttered such a statement would be too sensible to survive.
And perhaps that’s where we are more generally. A country that imports jihadists who are down on their luck and a continent that welcomes anyone who makes it there is a continent with a deeply troubled future. The best piece of advice any Brit or European can give to an Australian today is the saddest advice of all: don’t do what we did. The happier piece of advice — and one this Brit is happy to give to our Australian friends — is: keep doing what you are doing. You are right. And don’t let anyone, not even the UN, try to tell you otherwise.