Many of you will have seen the heart-rending photo of the Central American dad in the arms of his two year old daughter, both lying drowned in the shallows of a river after an ill-fated attempt to reach America. I know Central America and in particular the corrupt and sheer difficulty of life there for ordinary folk. That they make life-endangering attempts to escape to a better world in America should be easily understood.
On the other hand, in the entire history of the human race, no nation has shown more openness and generosity than America in welcoming migrants and refugees. Every country in the world is accorded a generous annual allocation of migrants, albeit the likes of New Zealand’s quota is never met. Not for nothing was the term ‘melting pot’ invented to describe America’s history which, for the record, includes the ill-described ‘indigenous people’ who in fact, like Polynesians, fled for unknown reasons, 10,500 years ago from today’s Taiwan.
But the cold-hard fact is that Trump was right and even the Democrats now acknowledge that, in saying the massive inward flow is at far too high levels. To add further to America’s burden, desperate refugees are now crossing the Atlantic in large numbers from their hopelessly mis-managed African homelands.
So too with Europe facing a similar crisis with massive refugee inflows to such an extent as to cause political turmoil across the Continent. In total there are currently 70 million people on the move world-wide seeking a safe haven, in Europe’s case, from Africa and the Middle East. This is a huge issue which we in New Zealand, currently safe in our isolation, are free from. But in my view we’re not pulling our weight, or indeed anything like it with our lousy 1,500 annual intake of our desperate straits fellow humans.
When the anger in Europe over this unwanted inflow grew to a peak a few years ago, one day we woke, as with the tragic photo of the drowned dad and his two year old daughter, to a tear-jerking photo of a Turkish solider carrying a little two year old drowned Syrian boy’s body in shorts and sandals, from the sea. As soon as I saw that I knew things would immediately change. And so they did.
All credit to Angela Merkel who on seeing that photo cried enough; they are us, as they are, regardless of language, culture, religious nonsense and other trivial differences and opened her country to them. It ultimately cost her the Presidency but no matter, she can sleep with pride and a clear conscious as unlike the vast majority of us she, given her office, was in a position to do something meaningful about it. These folk, like the huge inflow of Turks these past three decades, will ultimately prove of huge benefit to Germany.
By comparison in an infinitely smaller way I’m in a position to help and do so at a sizeable sum annually which, given my company’s success, is ever growing. And although I’ve never told him I’m proud of my eldest son who on his own initiative has established at a considerable cost he admittedly can afford, an institution in Athens with a team of teachers, training Middle Eastern refugees so they can qualify for entry to Britain.
So what can the ordinary Kiwi do to help this horrendous human crisis, only ever experienced on such a scale after the second World War? First, welcome the migrants here when you encounter them, often working in menial employment and struggling on low incomes to get by in a strange land.
Second, write a letter to your local MP and badger him or her to advocate lifting our refugee quota. We simply aren’t pulling our weight.
This incidentally is where Winston gets it wrong and for three reasons he should think again. He argues, and was aped last election by consistently wrong Gareth Morgan, that we should only welcome highly qualified migrants such as doctors and other professionals, but not the unskilled.
The first reason that’s wrong is we’re in a position to train our own desired professions and not steal them from third world countries who are desperately short of them.
Renown novelist Paul Theroux, who half a century ago in his twenties was a Peace Corp teacher in Malawi, wrote recently about how Malawi built it’s first medical school, only to watch the graduates immediately flee for higher incomes standards in Britain. Who can blame them, nevertheless we should not be taking them from the people who paid for their training and need them the most.
The second reason Winston should rethink his migration policy is personal to him. He’s of Maori and Scots descent. His Scottish ancestors fled after the clearances and ended up in Nova Scotia. They didn’t like it for damn good reasons and sent an exploratory delegation to New Zealand, initially to Otago. There they found a well-established colony which wasn’t what their pioneering spirit was seeking. Informed that the Maori tribes on the East Coast north of Auckland would welcome them, they sailed forth and were indeed welcomed, this leading to a sizeable migration from Nova Scotia of primarily single men who in due course married Maori girls; ergo Winston today.
But the most important reason Winston should rethink his migration stance is he, as an avid boxing fan, should appreciate the underlying message implicit in that old boxing adage, “a hungry fighter is a good fighter”.
America was built on migration by hungry fighters. Ultimately by opening up and introducing a more generous migrant policy including the unskilled, rather than taking professionals from where they’re most needed, we too will benefit.
Think of the immense Oriental migration here over the past three decades. In the 1990s I wrote a newspaper column and copped a lot of flak for it, saying this was the best thing ever to happen to New Zealand. I suspect today most kiwis would now thoroughly endorse that view.
To open the batting, how great it would be if we offered to Colombia and Ecuador, struggling under the burden of several million desperate Venezuelan migrants, to take 500 families. We’ll cope and as I’ve said, will ultimately benefit from their contribution to our nation. And best of all, as with the Asian migration, they will hugely lift our spirits with their pretty girls when compared with our course Anglo-Saxon features. That alone should be a clinching argument.