The complete failure of the UK’s Anti-Extremism Strategies: Why the Danes do it better

Commandment, Thou, Shalt, Not, Law, Rule, Tablet, Ten

The controversial UK counter-extremism strategy known as Preventing Violent Extremism (Prevent) has been extensively criticised since it was launched in the aftermath of the 2005 London bombings. Despite millions of pounds being invested in the programme and undergoing several reforms, the Prevent strategy remains deeply flawed and continues to do more harm than good in the struggle against violent extremism.

The Prevent programme aims to “respond to the ideological challenge of terrorism and the threat from those who promote it; to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism and ensure that they are given appropriate advice and support; and to work with sectors and institutions where there are risks of radicalisation that we need to address.”

While these are honourable goals, the Prevent programme is not achieving them in practice. One of Prevent’s initiatives requires teachers to observe their students for radical behaviour, which the National Union of Teachers (NUT) says leads to “suspicion in the classroom and confusion in the staffroom.” Training for these teachers to spot extremism has not been consistent or comprehensive, and Alex Kenny of NUT reports that the training has been of “very varied content, provided by a multiplicity of organisations, without accreditation or regulation.” When teachers do make reports, 90% of their referrals end without action being taken.

In schools, surveillance of this type means that certain topics cannot be fully discussed; this creates further misunderstanding about extremism and limits discussion about crucial topics. Schools have the potential to be a helpful tool against extremism by giving students a voice when they might feel marginalised in other aspects of their lives; the Prevent programme deprives schools of this ability.

Perhaps the most condemnatory flaw of the programme is its disproportionate targeting of Muslims. Between 2007 and 2010, 67% of the referrals involved Muslims despite the fact that Muslims made up only 5% of the population. Additionally, the allocation of Prevent funding was based on the number of Muslims in each area. Treating Muslims as suspects creates a precedent for Islamophobia and isolates young Muslim students, potentially damaging their relationships with their teachers, peers, and communities.

The Prevent strategy needs to reform to combat violent extremism through open, honest discussions in schools which allow students to voice their opinions and receive guidance from trusted adults. Rather than treating vulnerable members of the community as suspects and arresting them, the UK needs to establish programmes which focus on the reasons these people have been radicalised in the first place—whether that is fear, ignorance, hopelessness, or another factor which needs to be addressed.

This is exactly what the Danish approach, called Aarhus, aspires to achieve. Steffen Nielsen, a crime prevention advisor working with Aarhus, says that unlike the UK, “We are very upfront. If we have very clear information that you have fertiliser in the basement then we will pass that on. Otherwise we have a principle that no information goes to the secret service because we can’t work with people if they think we are passing on information.” The goal is to facilitate dialogue and trust rather than spying on the population.

When Danes return from Syria, Nielsen says that under the Aarhus programme they are embraced when they come home. “Unlike in England, where maybe you’re interned for a week while they figure out who you are, we say ‘Do you need any help?’” The idea is not to tell them they have done something terrible, but to allow them to talk about their experience.

Another important difference between Aarhus and Prevent is that Denmark makes the distinction between extreme views and violence as a result of extremism. Nielsen says, ”We don’t spend a lot of energy fighting ideology. We don’t try to take away your jihadist beliefs. You are welcome to dream of the Caliphate. But there are some means that you cannot use according to the penal code here. You can be al-Shabab all you like, as long as you don’t actually do al-Shabab.” The problem is not extremism, but violent extremism, and citizens are allowed their opinions as long as they are not harming others.

The method of ISIS is violence and hatred. The only way to combat this is by offering a country which facilitates dialogue and trust, and will listen to the young people at risk of being radicalised rather than isolating them. Programmes such as the UK’s Prevent and Denmark’s Aarhus have great potential, and could have the ability to either push citizens towards radicalisation or to show them love and bring them home. Currently, the UK’s Prevent is pushing its citizens into the arms of violent extremism.

Trump vs Clinton: Who is the better choice for the Middle East?

New polls released on 25 July put Donald Trump ahead of Hillary Clinton in the US presidential race. What would a Trump victory mean for the Middle East?


Domestic Policy

Domestically, Donald Trump’s views towards Muslims are deplorable. His policy to completely ban all Muslims from entering the United States shows an incredible level of hatred and ignorance, as shown by his statement that “Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in jihad.” This generated justified anger among Muslim Americans, and led the Council on American-Islamic Relations to claim that we are entering “the realm of the fascist.” Hillary Clinton has not expressed views which are as extreme and rooted in apparent hatred and lack of awareness as those of Donald Trump.

Military Policy

Trump wishes to scale up the military role of the US to fight ISIS and is willing to send up to 30,000 troops to Iraq and Syria. Although Hillary Clinton has been criticised for being too quick to want military solutions and lacking the ability to think ahead, she does object to sending troops to Iraq, Syria, and Libya. She is willing to offer air support to the Iraq Army, but does not want to send in the US infantry.

Iran Nuclear Deal 

Clinton is a strong supporter of the Iran nuclear deal while Trump has rallied against it. However, while Hillary Clinton has embraced Obama’s nuclear deal, she has included caveats and stated that it will only work “as part of a larger strategy toward Iran” to contain Tehran’s power as the sanctions are lifted. This shows that she does not see the nuclear deal as the beginnings of warm relations with Iran, and she has declared that “This is not the start of some larger diplomatic opening.” Furthermore, she called the Iranians “enemies” in a debate last October. This is unfortunate since good relations with both Iran and Russia could be instrumental to the chances of a settlement in Syria. In his reaction to the nuclear deal, Trump claimed that “The Persians are great negotiators” making an ethnic stereotype, and then continued to say that “They are laughing at the stupidity of the deal we’re making…We should double up and triple up the sanctions and have them come to us.” He sees the nuclear deal as a failure of negotiation, and wants to renegotiate the deal himself.


One somewhat favourable opinion of Donald Trump is his declaration of neutrality in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which would challenge the long-standing pro-Israel bias in the US. Although he has promised to protect Israel, he boasts his successful skills as a negotiator and claims that the negotiations will require a certain level of neutrality. Clinton, on the other hand, has shown herself to be strongly biased in favour of Israel. During her speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in March she proclaimed her desire to strengthen American-Israeli ties and her unwavering support of Israel and the Israeli government, regardless of their policies.

The Iraq War

Trump’s criticism of the Iraq War has been seen by some as another favourable view towards the Middle East. He said that the war caused instability in the region and fuelled Al Qaeda and the rise of ISIS. He also claims to have been against the invasion before it occurred, although this has been disputed. However, his criticism of the war includes a statement that the US should have stolen the Iraqi’s oil after destroying their country. He says,  “I always heard that when we went into Iraq we went in for the oil. I said, ‘oh, that sounds smart.’ But, we never did…I would take the oil.” Clinton has also spoken out against the Iraq War, although as a senator she voted in favour of the invasion in 2002. Her initial support of the Iraq War has been used against her as evidence of her “hawkish” foreign policy.

The upcoming US presidential election will be a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils, and Hillary Clinton is the lesser when it comes to the Middle East. Unfortunately, she is very biased against Palestine, will do nothing to improve relations with Iran, and might be too quick to intervene militarily. However, unlike her opponent, she does not actively promote gross stereotypes and hatred, will not tear up the nuclear deal, and at least for now does not support sending US troops to Iraq and Syria. Hillary Clinton is not going to solve the problems of the Middle East, but at the very least she will allow Muslims to enter the country.

Saudi Arabia ratchets up involvement in the Yemen Crisis


Damage caused by Saudi airstrikes to a house in Sana’a


Saudi Arabia is gearing up for a massive attack on Yemen. Or so it would seem.

A source close to the Next Century Foundation has informed us that Saudi officials asked for towns on the Saudi-Yemeni border to be evacuated last week, meaning there is possibility for further Saudi intervention in the war-torn country.

Sources in the Saudi armed forces indicate that the Saudi Crown Prince issued a letter to the Saudi High Command (the NCF has seen the letter in question) instructing them to evacuate all villages on the Saudi side of the border with Yemen of their entire population.

Subsequent reports from other NCF sources have indicated that Saudi ground forces are engaged in action, crossing the border into Yemen in the North. There is nothing unusual in this of itself, however this time perhaps we are about to see a more significant action rather than a mere skirmish. It is notable that the Kuwaitis have put a deadline on the peace negotiations between the warring parties (i.e. the Saudis and the Houthis) currently taking place in Kuwait. Presumably this is at the behest of the Saudis who wish to bring peace talks to an end and ramp up their attack on Yemen.

Yemen has been engaged in a civil war since March of 2015. The conflict began between forces loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and a group known as the Houthis, a Zaydi Shia-led movement loyal to former dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Houthis, or Ansar Allah (“supporters of God”), were founded by Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi. They are seen in the West as a pro-Iranian group, and therefore the conflict is perceived as also being between Shiite Iran and Saudi Arabia, which is currently leading an international coalition against the Houthis.

The US and UK are part of the coalition with Saudi Arabia, but with different motives. While the Saudis are concerned mainly with their own influence in the region, the US and UK are concerned with combating Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). This group is considered the most dangerous Al Qaeda affiliate, and AQAP has taken control of entire towns and villages in the south and east of Yemen.

The Saudis have intervened in Yemen through extensive bombing campaigns. Saudi-backed government forces successfully recaptured Aden from the Houthis, who seized the presidential palace and named a Revolutionary Committee to take over the powers of the president after Hadi resigned in January 2015. Because of Saudi involvement, President Hadi was able to return in September 2015.

Saudi involvement in Yemen has gone further than reinstatement of the president, however. News of the Saudi evacuation of border towns comes at the same time as the UK government admits it was wrong in saying that Saudi Arabia has not targeted civilians or committed war crimes. In its campaign against the Houthis, Saudi Arabia has blown up hospitals, schools, and weddings. The UN’s high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has said that these appear to be war crimes. The UK has been a supporter of Saudi Arabia, supplying billions in weapons, but is hesitant to take responsibility; the admission that Saudi Arabia may have in fact committed war crimes came on the final day of parliament before the summer recess.

Today, the most pressing issue in Yemen is the humanitarian crisis. The people of Yemen are starving. Twenty million Yemenis are in desperate need of food, water, and medical care; this is nearly 80% of the population. The Saudi-led naval blockade is exacerbating the issue by preventing goods from being imported. The humanitarian crisis in Yemen has received significantly less media attention in the west than the refugee or Syrian crises, as the Saudi blockade is supported by the UK and US.

A solution in Yemen will not be found until Saudi Arabia changes its role in the country. The Saudis are afraid of losing land, and they see Iran as a security threat although it has no real presence in Yemen today. However, the Saudi view of the Houthis as Iranian-backed has become a self-fulfilling prophecy; if the Saudis offered to allow support to go to the population in the Houthi controlled areas they would easily reduce any Iranian influence, but denying them support only pushes the Houthis towards Iran.

The alleged evacuation of the border towns is evidence that the Saudis have not yet accepted a changed role in Yemen, but are continuing with their violent campaign. Retired Saudi colonel, political strategist and commentator Ibrahim al Marie showed that the war is more about Saudi influence than anything else when he stated that while the war is expensive, “If we stop it without getting Sana’a and disarming the Houthis, it will be a historical and military catastrophe.” He continues that “It would be a problem for the confidence between the government and the people, and the decision makers in the kingdom know this very well.”

Update: Leadsom the best for the Middle East

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The results are in, and Michael Gove is out. While neither of our potential female prime ministers has particularly favourable opinions on Middle Eastern affairs, Andrea Leadsom is the lesser of two evils.

Unfortunately, Theresa May is still far ahead in the race for prime minister; Michael Gove was knocked out with 46 votes compared to Leadsom’s 84 and May’s 199.

For the future of the Middle East, it would be best if Leadsom could close this gap and defeat May. As the Minister of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, Leadsom gained extensive knowledge about nuclear safety and regulations. She has already established that she sees Iraq as a “key partner.” Leadsom’s experience in this field will make her more likely to have prior experience with the region and to understand the importance of maintaining stable relationships with other countries in the Middle East, even maintaining these relationships is only out of self-interest.

Meanwhile, May’s policies regarding the Middle East are slightly less favourable. Her recently launched review of Sharia law, while relevant, shows a reluctance to be understanding and accepting of other views and cultures. This is further exhibited by her statement that she will attempt to ensure that citizenship is only granted to people who “embrace British values.”

Neither Theresa May nor Andrea Leadsom is afraid to use force overseas, which could lead to further violence in the Middle East. Both also have very harsh immigration policies, which will certainly not do anything to improve the fates of refugees. It is clear that the future role of the UK in the Middle East is uncertain, but no matter which of these two women is chosen to lead this country, there is reason to be concerned about how Middle Eastern affairs will be handled.

Where do the current Prime Minister candidates stand on the Middle East?

As the UK looks forward to the future after Brexit, the next Prime Minister will not only have to deal with turmoil within British politics but will also need to address the current situation in the Middle East.

Theresa May

(Home Secretary)



As the current home secretary, May campaigned for Remain but rejected EU refugee resettlement schemes and is a strong anti-immigration voice. She has campaigned to deport terrorism suspects, and has stripped 33 people of British citizenship based on suspected terrorist activity. She has proclaimed that she will attempt to ensure that citizenship is only granted to people who embrace British values.

Domestic Affairs

Recently, May launched a review as part of the government’s counter-extremism strategy which will examine how Sharia law can cause ‘harm’ in communities, and specifically how the Islamic legal system discriminates against women especially in cases of divorce, domestic violence, and custody cases. It will also consider the extent to which the application of Sharia law is incompatible with the rule of law in Britain [1].


May voted in favour of bombing Syria in 2013 and 2015, and she supported the Labour government’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003. She has almost always supported the use of UK military forces overseas.

Michael Gove

(Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice)



One of Gove’s main reasons for supporting Brexit was his belief that the being in the EU makes it more difficult to identify terrorists as the EU dictates “what our spies can do and whether we can be kept safe” [2]. In addition, he says that the UK has been unable to stop terror suspects from entering the country because of EU law.

In his 2006 book Celsius 7/7, Gove discusses “how the west’s policy of appeasement has provoked yet more fundamentalist terror—and what has to be done now.” He compares the threat of political Islam to communism and Nazism. He claims that his motivation for the book came from Britain’s “widespread reluctance to acknowledge the real scale and nature of the Islamist terror threat” and the “failure to scrutinise, monitor or check the actions, funding and operation of those committed to spreading the Islamist word in Britain” [3]. Gove also says that “if we believe in the superiority of our way of life” then “we should be urgently working to spread democracy” and that the Islamists are right to see the West as their mortal enemy [3].

Despite Theresa May’s rigid views on immigration and the deportation of terrorist suspects, May and Gove have clashed dramatically over the government’s strategy for dealing with extremism. Gove is very harsh in his policy on extremism, and believes that all extremists should be targeted, whether or not they support violence [4].


Gove is a supporter of Israel, and his views on the country were described in the “Jewish 100s” as “More favourable than those of any other mainstream British politician, current or past” [5]. He also had very strong opinions about the boycott of Isreali goods, and in 2014 said that the boycott is a crime worse than apartheid. He also said “We need to remind ourselves that defending Israel’s right to exist is defending our common humanity. Now more than ever” [6].


He was a strong supporter of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and even five years later described it as a foreign policy success. Gove supported action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2013, and voted for air strikes in Iraq and Syria in 2014 and 2015.


Andrea Leadsom

(Member of Parliament for South Northamptonshire)


Nuclear Energy

Nuclear safety and regulation is a subject Leadsom places great importance on. During her speech at the Iraqi Petroleum Conference in 2015, she called Iraq a “key partner” in achieving “our shared goals of energy security and prosperity” [7]. Leadsom also said, “The UK is committed to continue to stand by the people of Iraq, the government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government in their fight against terrorism and protecting civilians from ISIL’s murderous campaign” [7].


Leadsom supported the use of airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, and posted on her website that Parliament agreed to them because ISIS cannot be reasoned with, is a direct threat to Britain, and the Iraqi government asked for assistance.


Like the other candidates, Leadsom plans to crack down on all immigration. She says “Freedom of movement will end and the British parliament will decide how many people enter our country each year to live, work and contribute to our national life” [8]. Unlike Theresa May, Leadsom has guaranteed the rights of the EU citizens already living in the UK. However, the immigration policies of all of the candidates leave the future uncertain for non-EU citizens in the UK and for refugees.


Leadsom has consistently supported the use of military force overseas.

The Situation in Syria and the Way Forward


The Conference on the Middle East Migration Crisis: Genesis and Response hosted by Initiatives of Change and the Next Century Foundation offered an analysis of the current situation in Syria and potential solutions. The speakers in this session included Adel Darwish, Ammar Waqqaf, Dawn Chatty, Siwar Al-Assad, Yussef Anwar, and Jonathan Mueller.

The situation in Syria is one which is pertinent both to the migration crisis and to the fight against ISIS. Migration out of Syria has had a huge impact on Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. Many Syrians do not want to cross the border for fear of not being able to return home; but remaining in the bordering countries gives them the best probability of returning home when it becomes safe to do so. Refugee camps in the bordering countries are far from perfect; once in a Jordanian camp a refugee is not permitted to leave. Many Turkish camps provide good healthcare and services, but there is a waiting list. In both Turkey and Jordan, only a small percentage of the refugees are in the camps, and Lebanon does not have any refugee camps but has accepted a staggering number of refugees; it would be as if the United Kingdom accepted 20 million people.

Within Syria, an issue was raised about describing the conflict as sectarian. According to Siwar Al-Assad, the Sunni versus Shia war is a myth. If the war was about sectarianism, the state would have collapsed within six months or a year. In fact, Sunnis have actually intervened on several occasions to protect minorities, claimed Siwar. This is an important clarification to make as it drastically affects the potential political solutions. A second issue was raised about the possibility Syria might be partitioned. Ammar Waqqaf claimed that this solution is not an option because people still view themselves as being part of Syria, and the minority groups cannot have viable states.

Several solutions to the situation in Syria were offered. First, there needs to be a focus on giving  young people hope and education. If people have hope for their country, they will be less likely to leave it. Second, the United States needs to be involved in a way which does not cause further conflict with Russia. It is important that the United States collaborate with Russia without reference to the New Cold War or the Ukraine Crisis. Third, there needs to be more dialogue. According to Siwar al-Assad, President Bashar al-Assad has indicated that he is willing to negotiate. It is the Muslim Brotherhood-led coalition which has yet to drop its preconditions to negotiation. Fourth, we need to stop worrying about housing and benefits for refugees here in the West, but treat them as migrants and allow them to work. Finally, Syria needs to find leadership which can command the trust of its citizens. This may be the most difficult aspect of the solution, but is absolutely critical to insure that government institutions do not suffer further damage.

Bishop Michael Ipgrave on the Middle East Migration Crisis


The following is a speech given by Bishop Michael Ipgrave, Bishop of Lichfield, for the Conference on the Middle East Migration Crisis: Genesis and Response hosted by Initiatives of Change in collaboration with the Next Century Foundation.

Today is International Refugee Day. Themes of seeking refuge and of migration resonate deeply with Christians:

– in the core narratives of our scriptures,
– in our fundamental understanding of who we are as the people of God, and
– in the way we view some key questions in our current situation.

Some examples of refugee and migrant stories from the scriptures, which intersect in different ways with our discourse today:

– Abraham travels from Mesopotamia to the land of Canaan, with his household and his herds – an archetypal figure for Jews, Christians and Muslims, from an age of semi-nomadic existence before borders are settled.
– the people of Israel travel down to Egypt in search of grain, at the instigation of Joseph who has through force of circumstance gone first and established himself in society: people trafficking followed by economic migration.
– in the Exodus, the Israelites leave Egypt both as refugees from injustice and persecution, and in search of religious freedom.
– the Book of Ruth movingly describes how a Moabite woman leaves her native land and travels with her mother-in-law to Bethlehem. This immigrant woman, motivated by familial reasons, becomes rapidly integrated in her new society to the extent that her grandson is chosen as king.
– after the collapse of the kingdoms of first Israel and then Judah, the Jewish people are forcibly related to Babylon by their conquerors. From their point of view (and God’s), this is exile, but from the Babylonian authorities’ point of view it could also be described as internal displacement.
– the Holy Family travel to Egypt to escape Herod’s massacre of children in Bethlehem. In contemporary terms, they are short-term asylum seekers.

Themes like this also play a major part in other faiths too – for example:

– the experience of hijra, migration in search of religious freedom, is central to the formation of the early Islamic community, and one of the first places they seek asylum is in the Christian kingdom of Abyssinia;
– over the centuries until the formation of the State of Israel, the experience of galut, diaspora or exile, was the shaper of Jewish identity;
– to take one example from religions further east, the model of righteousness in Hinduism is Rama, the king whose rule in Ayodhya is conditioned by his long years in exile.

In these formative narratives, religious faith plays a key part for individuals and for communities: as motivation for their journeying and as encouragement on the way; as something challenged by the experience of displacement, but eventually deepened through reassertion in a greatly changed situation; as a marker of identity which is carried across borders and provides continuing distinctiveness in a new context, and so on.

As expressed in the New Testament, a Christian understanding of identity is fundamentally one of uprootedness, or unsettlement – ‘here we have no continuing city’ (Heb 13.14); [because] ‘our citizenship is in heaven’ (Phil 3.20).

Some of the contours of this account of identity are these:

– we are all in exile from our true homeland, the fullness of life with God;
– here on earth, we are strangers and pilgrims the word peregrinus, literally ‘traveller through the fields’, a stranger from another city, acquires in Christianity a positive meaning of ‘pilgrim’, traveller to the heavenly country);
– as those with the heart of a stranger or pilgrim, we owe a duty of welcome to those we meet who are also strangers far from their homes;
– we are called together to build a new community where our primary identity in Jesus Christ transcends and brings into unity all differences of nationality, ethnicity or culture: ‘In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek’ (Gal 3.28).

Some perspectives on our current situation which immediately flow from this:

– for Christians, national borders are not of ultimate significance. They are practical arrangements put in place to enable the right conditions for communities to flourish; if they fail to meet this end, they should be abandoned, redrawn or reconceived. They should not be absolutised.
–no fundamental distinctions should be drawn between different categories of migrants on the basis either of motivation (e.g. refugees vs migrants) or location (e.g. those who cross boundaries vs Internally Displaced Persons). It may be useful practically in some situations to sort people in these ways, but there is no basic moral difference in the claim on our attention that they carry.
– religious allegiance is a key factor in many different forms of migration, and religious freedom should be given a heavy weighting in considering these issues. Christians will of course have their closest affinity with other Christians, but all who are in migration for religious reasons have a claim on us. That said, it may well be that we focus on Christians in particular for two pragmatic reasons: that nobody else carries a specific brief for Christian minority groups; and that we are best placed to understand and support them in their needs.

Tim Pendry on Creative Responses among Refugee Host Communities

European_flagThe following is a speech given by Tim Pendry, co-owner, Director and Chairman of TPPR Public Affairs, for the Conference on the Middle East Migration Crisis: Genesis and Response hosted by Initiatives of Change in collaboration with the Next Century Foundation.

Seven minutes is not a great deal of time to provide a creative solution to our biggest current challenge – the mass migration not only of the dispossessed by war but of the global poor under conditions of globalisation. The crisis is not just one of the Middle East and Europe. It is a global crisis. I have just time to propose one big political shift of emphasis.

TPPR is primarily an adviser to the private sector on the risk implications of changes in our political situation. We have been much preoccupied with Brexit which comes to a head on Thursday. The Brexit Debate contains important lessons for us. Basically, the liberal middle classes want idealism from their leafy suburbs while many working class people would like some compassion directed at their situation instead.

The cultural idealist in the metropolis who has done well out of globalisation has suddenly faced a revolt from half his fellows. The latter have realised, perhaps too late, that they have one shot at recovering their old cultural status before, not migrants, but the liberal middle classes in all its manifestations confirm their minority status in their own land.

Migration is too often framed as one of humanitarian duty against racism and xenophobia. But it is also one of class, of classes that see themselves (whether petit-bourgeois East Coast shopkeeper or working class Northerner) not merely as the general losers in the globalisation game but as on the edge of permanent insecurity and exploitation because of it.

The numbers of migrants is always exaggerated in political discourse but this truth is often used as an excuse to try to dismiss complainants as irrational or vicious. In fact, their protest is rational on several grounds.

First, the flow of migrants is increasing. They are not fools in the belief that assimilated migrants will come to be a permanent voting bloc working with the liberal-minded middle classes to steer resources ever more in the direction of those with the political power. The fears are anticipatory and correct.

Second, they see free movement of labour, in association with the capture of their political movements by the middle classes, including the official conservative parties, as a means of atomising them and driving down wage rates but it also observably increases competition for scarce resources especially housing.

Many working people see what happens when unscrupulous exploitative business takes up the opportunity of cheap labour without having to invest in social infrastructure, the social capital needed to sustain the communities into which the migrants are also inserted without much social support other than the family, clan or tribe.

Third, the average working class reaction to people from faraway places and different cultures begins with being tolerant (although, of course there are a minority of fascists in these communities) but resentment grows – yet not necessarily because of the migrant …

When the dominant culture – the world of government and the BBC to oversimplify – engages in what the local community thinks of as an intrusive positive discrimination in which its own history and values are disrespected, it is this disrespect, anticipatory of humiliation, which becomes the problem.

The best of the Left has always tried to point out that an exploited white working class person and an exploited migrant have the same problem at heart. In general, the British working class has not been averse to this. Many of these issues would certainly be less salient if the globalising system had not resulted in an economic crash in 2008 in which the higher you were up the middle class food chain, the less likely you were to be hurt.

But now we are in the economic doldrums. Large numbers of people feel disrespected and under threat. Nor are they are wrong in seeing their problems increase if cheap labour is to be the engine that tries to keep a failing economic system alive until the next innovation-led economic cycle many years away.

And the creative solution to the long term problem of refugee and even economic migrant acceptability? We step back and give ourselves a three, perhaps even seven, year breathing space in which the West allows itself to put up some sufficient short term barriers to totally free movement of labour in order to buy itself valuable time.

Why? To allow the human-all-too-human to adjust to new conditions and prepare for the next economic cycle. To reconstruct a culture of respect for the ordinary person whether native or migrant. To put idealistic liberals back in their box as the dominant political species. To put in place the necessary managed system of migration control.

The positive results would be a breathing space for more toleration, less populism, more acceptance of those migrants who are here, the ending of an exploitative labour market, the political consensus for vital social investment overseas and the eventual widespread social acceptance of a restoration of moderate managed migration with an adequate infrastructure.

Jaafar El-Ahmar on Syria: The Way Forward


The following is a speech written by Al-Hayat journalist Jaafar El-Ahmar for the Conference on the Middle East Migration Crisis: Genesis and Response hosted by Initiatives of Change in collaboration with the Next Century Foundation.

As we speak, the number of Syrian refugees fleeing their homes has risen to around 17 million, of which five million fled the country, including almost two million children, and around 12.2 million internally displaced people, including 5.6 million children.

The world reaction towards this humanitarian crisis was a bit slow, until the 2nd of September 2015, when the image of the three-year-old Syrian Kurdish boy, Alan Kurdi, struck the world, when his body was found lying face-down on a beach near Turkish resort of Bodrum.

Before this date, thousands of desperate Syrian refugees died silently unnoticed in the Mediterranean, during their attempts to flee the war in their country. And even after that, More than 2,500 refugees and migrants have died, trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe in the first five months of this year, as William Spindler, a UNHCR spokesman has said in 30 May 2016.

The international support to handle the refugee crisis is crucial, but not enough. The only solution is political, to put an end to this tragedy.

After five years of bloodletting in Syria, this has left no one in a quandary! Everyone has come to the conclusion that cessation of war is necessary, and the solution is the same as it was five years ago. Only a negotiated political settlement will give Syrians a sustainable and enduring peace.

The western approach at the beginning of the crisis did not help to promote a political solution, as the west took side and stated that the Regime and its leader must go.

It was clear, at the beginning, that a significant group of Syrians wanted reforms, and some wanted the regime to go.

At the same time, it is imperative to acknowledge that a substantial number of Syrians find security in the regime. Many are afraid of change, and especially fearful of the kind of change the opposition will bring. These Syrians view the religiously motivated opposition as an existential threat to what being “Syrian” means to them, or to the very survival of their communities.

There is nowadays a growing international consensus that Takfeeri Extremism is the main gross danger, which must be defeated. The effects have rippled across the global landscapes. Incidents in Orlando, Paris, Brussels and elsewhere, are indicative of the chilling waves.

The need is to confront the ideology behind the extremism: education, mosques, preachers of hatred, and stop funding, and focus on defeating ISIS headquarters mainly in Syria and Iraq.

There appears also to be some consensus today, that the structures of Syrian state must not be allowed to collapse, to avoid the disaster Libya, Iraq and Yemen are facing.

This will require leadership from all countries to support a political process that will help end the fighting.

These goals can be accommodated by the Geneva process, or elsewhere, with a negotiated solution between the regime and the moderate opposition, allowing for a transitional phase, during which a new Syrian government would be formed, and the unrealistic preconditions will have to be dropped.
The healing process will not be quick, and the Syrian State will remain fractured for the foreseeable future. But the transition must be defined clearly enough, to give all sides the assurances they will need to know: that the state structures will remain intact, local councils will be respected, militias will be decommissioned, and a representative form of governance will be established, to give all of Syria’s people a stake in their collective future.

It won’t be easy to defeat the extremists, and it won’t be easy to convince the regime to surrender its absolute hold on power, and to share it with the others. But this must be the focus of international pressure, if Syria and Syrians are to find a way out of this horrible long war.

Genuine, lasting reforms in political and economic realm can only begin with the end of conflict.


Thank You