When an issue as charged and explosive as to how Britain should react to the migrant crisis engulfing Europe comes along, it’s hardly surprising it provokes great swathes of emotion, howls of protest and deep soul-searching.
However, the narrative that has been allowed to spring up that the decision by the government to restrict the number of migrant children coming into this country to 350 is akin to bolting the door in the face of children at the time of the Kindertransport shows a love of hyperbole and a lack of historical context.
Under an amendment to the Immigration Act of last year proposed by the well-meaning and nobly motivated veteran Labour peer Lord Alf Dubs, Britain appeared to be ready to welcome 3,000 unaccompanied migrant children, who are currently left stranded in camps in Europe. This was in no small way down to celebrities such as Lily Allen breaking down in tears, conveniently in front of the cameras, and re-writing modern day history by laying the blame for just about everything up to and including the failure to cure the common cold at the door of this country. She was ably assisted by Jude Law, who wandered around the camp dressed as a cross between Frank Spencer and Lenin and blasted any Briton who didn’t automatically fall in line with his views.
The government’s reasoning behind limiting the numbers? It fears a higher number serves as a magnet and therefore aids the trafficking gangs. In reality, the problem should be dealt with at source.
Meanwhile, a raft of celebrities including Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan, and Benedict Cumberbatch (come on, you didn’t think for a second he’d miss out, did you?) wrote an open letter in which they said the restriction was “completely unacceptable.” Referring to Sir Nicholas Winton, who helped rescue 669 Jewish children from all parts of Europe in World War II, one of whom was the 6-year-old Alf Dubs, they went on: “It is embarrassing that the prime minister’s entire government will not even match the example set by her former constituent all those years ago, let alone the efforts of the Kindertransport movement of which he was a part which saved 10,000 children from the Nazis.”
This shows just how crass and uninformed their take on history is and, disappointingly, some prominent rabbis have joined in the chorus of disapproval. But the comparison just doesn’t hold. The Nazis’ loathsome final solution was an attempt to exterminate the entire Jewish people. While the Syrian civil war and unrest in surrounding areas is unutterably pitiful, it cannot be likened to the Holocaust.
Also, it’s worth remembering there were no migrant or refugee camps anywhere in Europe before or during World War II. Families were being rounded up and herded off to their near certain deaths. Also, all those decades ago the entire continent was going up in flames, so the children hadn’t crossed a number of safe countries that could accept them before arriving in camps in France.
Then, there is the issue of what actually constituents a “child.” Each time the campaigners line up outside number ten, they are sure the children who accompany them would appear to be aged between 6 and 9, yet they are calling for “children” aged up to 17 to be allowed in. This led to the pictures published last year of a number of so-called “child migrants” all of whom appeared to have stubble, laughing as they arrived in the country. Some of them were subsequently discovered to be in their 20s and one in his early 30s.
You would need a heart of stone not to have sympathy for genuine child victims and there is an argument for helping those of a much younger age. However, using the Holocaust as a comparison demeans the millions of victims from that horrific time.