Asylum Seekers and Refugees – some random thoughts. What do you think?

By Opher Goodwin

It is obvious that we cannot allow an unrestricted stream of refugees and asylum seekers into the country.

We have to provide a mechanism to deal with this stream of people.

There are many reasons why we have such a large number of refugees (much of it due to our own fault):

War refugees (from Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Iraq and now Ukraine ….. wars that we created or sponsored);

Colonial refugees from the likes of China;

Political/Social refugees fleeing from tyrannical states from whom they might be persecuted, tortured or executed (for political, religious or social reasons – (such as being gay));

Environmental refugees fleeing countries suffering from intolerable heat, crop failures, drought etc.;

Economic refugees looking to move to a country that is more prosperous with more prospects for their family.

We have created a world that is hugely unequal. There are many reasons why that inequality has arisen – colonialism, conquest through war, economic exploitation, greed, privilege…… some of these issues are global. We have a wealthy, privileged class in most countries. These peoples’ greed means that they seize an enormous portion of the nations’ wealth resulting in mass poverty. Corruption in many badly run countries greatly exacerbates the problems.

In my view:

In the Short Term, we need a system to deal with this problem. Out of compassion, we need a system that provides sanctuary for certain people seeking asylum – historically we have always provided a safe haven for those persecuted people fleeing persecution. The criteria need to be legally described and a process put in place to apply these criteria fairly. I believe that has been done. Britain is a cosmopolitan, multiracial country and all the better for it.

We need to set up a rapid system where people awaiting processing can be properly housed and quickly processed.

We need to work with other countries (the EU and others) to enable all this to work smoothly.

We need to return unsuccessful applicants to the countries they came from.

In the Longer Term, we need to tackle the problems that are creating these huge migrations:

We need to put a stop to all wars!

We need to reverse global warming and climate change.

We need to provide global aid to all those suffering short-term catastrophes.

We need to reduce the world population so that we do not have massive population explosions that cannot be supported.

We have to reduce the obscene level of inequality so that we do not have these distressing levels of poverty and all people have a positive standard of living.

We need to globally address the environmental degradation that is leading to climate change and a crisis in biodiversity.

In my opinion:

Turning a blind eye to the situations we have created (through war, colonialism, exploitation and global warming) is immoral.

Trying to farm out the problem to other countries is immoral.

Sending refugees to some African state with very dubious human rights records (such as Rwanda) at huge cost is immoral.

Deliberately making it difficult to apply for asylum and making the process lengthy and difficult is immoral.

Deliberately creating terrible conditions for refugees (as a deterrent to others) is immoral.


This is a complex problem with no easy answers. Trying to sweep it under the carpet or using nasty tactics to dissuade refugees is not the answer.


  1. Opher, I liked your article enough to ask your permission to re-publish it here. Asylum is indeed a big problem, and not enough effort is given to finding just and workable solutions to the problem.

    I assume that when you talk of “colonial refugees from the likes of China” you are talking specifically about people from Hong Kong, who have (rightly) a better claim to UK residence than many other immigrants, and many of whom may indeed have good reason to want to escape the PRC.

    I won’t get into “environmental refugees” now, or your proposals to “reduce global warming and climate change” and to “reduce the world population.” That’s a complicated discussion, and now is neither the time nor place. But beyond that, there is a lot that I can agree with.

    Where you say “We have built a world that is hugely unequal,” I have two main replies. First, it isn’t you and I who have been doing this; it’s the politicians and the (national and international) political classes. Where you say “We,” I would say “They.”

    There is a wider point to be made here, too. As an individualist, I do not accept responsibility for anything over which I have or have had no control. And I do not accept any kind of collective guilt for what others have done without my say-so, even if they did it supposedly on my behalf. Therefore, I’m always leery when you or anyone else says that “We” (in some collective sense that is not precisely explicated) must do something in order to fix a problem that was not caused by us (that is, by you or me). All that said, I don’t dispute at all that there are deep inequalities in politics today, or that they must be addressed and corrected.

    Second, inequalities (along with the injustices that are their root cause) are built into the political system. The Westphalian nation state, with its “sovereigns” and “subjects,” has inequality built in to its very core. The sovereign can make laws to bind the subjects, yet isn’t bound by those same laws. If you wonder why Boris Johnson has behaved over Partygate as atrociously as he has, I’d guess it’s because he thinks he and his cronies are sovereigns, and aren’t bound by the laws they themselves scheme to make. If you wonder why many politicians, like Rees-Mogg, take the same attitude, it’s because they think the same way. This thinking has got to change; and ordinary people are going to have to start seeing it for what it is, and branding those that use it as the criminals against humanity that they are.

    You say, “We need to put a stop to all wars!” I couldn’t agree more. War, too, is built into the Westphalian nation state system. As Randolph Bourne told us, war is the health of the state; and often very profitable for those at the top, too. Worse, the sovereign and cronies are not to be held responsible for anything they do to people, including brutally murdering the innocent. This is commonly called “the king can do no wrong.” Blair, for example, has not (yet) been held responsible for the murders of innocents that he made possible in Iraq. Putin has not (yet) been held responsible for the murders of innocent Ukrainians that he ordered. This attitude, and letting warmongers get away with it, has got to change. Like inequality and injustice, war is built into the nation state system.

    If we (humanity as a whole) really want to get rid of war – and we should! – the way to accomplish that is to get rid of the state and its idea of “sovereignty.” And to replace it by a system that can, as I have put it elsewhere: “enable people to live together in an environment of peace and tranquillity, common-sense justice, and maximum rights and freedom for every individual.”

    You later say “We have to reduce the obscene level of inequality so that we do not have these distressing levels of poverty and all people have a positive standard of living.” I’ll make the point that economic inequalities are not always wrong per se. Honest people who contribute to the economy deserve to be paid what they are worth to their customers, and the lazy, bureaucratic, political and destructive, that over the long term contribute nothing to the economy, deserve to be paid what they are worth, too. The real problem is that the political inequalities are the cause of the “obscene” economic inequalities. The state’s cronies can make themselves rich on government contracts they are given “through the back door.” Meanwhile, people who are able and willing to deliver wanted goods or services (like lorry drivers) are prevented from doing so by bad laws made by politicians with agendas. These inequalities, too, can be cured by getting rid of the political state.

  2. I agree with much of what you say too, Neil.
    When I say ‘we’ in my rant, I do suggest that we have responsibility; I believe that we have a collective responsibility. The model of the Westphalian nation-state system that we have, is one that has created an elite that has shaped nations and the world. I agree that it causes wars and gross inequality. But where we have a collective responsibility is that we have allowed them to do this.
    I do not want a totally equal society. I believe people should be rewarded for their ability and effort – I believe that this should be in proportion. I would support a system where nobody receives pay that is more than ten times the amount of the lowest paid. What we have at the moment is an elite who, corruptly and through exploitation, are walking away with millions (billions even) for doing very little while millions of extremely hard-working individuals do not receive a living wage.
    Where we differ is on the way to tackle this callous, heartless, greedy, selfish elite. You would do away with politics and deal with everything on a purely local level and I do not believe that is possible. The world operates globally. We have to change the global system and find a way to control these warmongering elites who have created this mess.

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