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Gordon Campbell on NZ’s response to Euope's refugee crisis

Gordon Campbell on the government’s response to the refugee crisis in Europe

The government’s refusal to accept an emergency intake of refugees from the hundreds of thousands now pouring into Europe is pretty shameful. This country makes so much of its Anzac heritage. Yet now, John Key and Tony Abbott are standing side by side against the exercise of compassion, while it is Germany that is extending the hand of assistance – even though the lack of help from other nations (including the wartime Allied powers of Britain, Australia, New Zealand) seems to be fuelling the local resentment of refugees within Germany. As a result, we are seeing the further rise of the sort of neo-Nazi groups that made WWII inevitable.

By taking in more refugees on an emergency basis, New Zealand would – among other things – be easing some of the neo-Nazi heat that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is taking for her brave and principled stand. When it comes to generosity towards refugees, New Zealand can learn a lot from the Germans, the Italians, the Swedes, the Serbians, and the Lebanese – who, as others have recently pointed out, have a population the same size as New Zealand packed into a territory about as big as the Waikato. Yet regardless, Lebanon has taken in well over a million refugees from Syria.

We need to open our borders first, and then help each other to cope. That’s the lesson of history. For example: the UN Convention of Refugees was set up in the post-war shadow of a Europe that in the 1930s, had shown very little compassion for the fate of European Jews, with terrible consequences. The Refugee Convention was put in place by a world that – at the time – felt determined to ensure that borders would not remain closed in future to humanitarian need. Yet thanks to the dismal likes of David Cameron (looking over his shoulder nervously at UKIP) Tony Abbott and John Key, those historical lessons are now being ignored.

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In Key’s case, the inaction is particularly surprising. His own family history might have been expected to induce him to reach a different conclusion. According to reports, his aunt Lottie had fled from Nazi persecution in the 1930s to Britain, where she got a British visa by a bogus marriage of convenience – and it was this ill-gotten British visa that via family re-unification, enabled Lottie to bring across her brother Herbert and her sister Ruth, who later became John Key’s mother.

Given that history, Key is not in a strong position to tell other refugees to wait their turn, go through proper channels, and delay their arrival until the recipient country has the ideal reception procedures in place. Moreover, when it was rationalising our military response to Islamic State, the Key government made a big deal out of New Zealand’s need to step up, shoulder the burden and join the international response to the common threat.

Well, if we felt so impelled to do our bit militarily against an evil foe, it seems perverse to make only a token contribution when it comes to helping the innocent victims of that very same war. Hardly the sort of spirit we claim to revere on Anzac Day. Right now, New Zealand is being put to shame by the Germans and the Italians.

The Clash. MIA etc

In a previous workplace, when Tom Petty’s “Refugee” came on the radio one time, I remember a pious co-worker saying “But some people do have to live like refugees…” Sigh. Lets not go there this morning. Instead, here’s the Clash’s great “Straight to Hell” contribution to the limited genre of what one might call refugee rock… plus, the M.I.A hit “Paper Planes” that sampled the Clash track so successfully, while giving its own take on migrant politics…

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