View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Wednesday, 27 January 2016


Like most European countries, Denmark has been subjected to a large influx of migrants fleeing the upheavals in the Middle East, southwest Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The country feels overwhelmed by the flood of people, and has reinstituted border controls on the sole land border it has, with Germany. There are also more stringent checks on the border with Sweden, at the Øresund bridge across the sea strait between the two countries. 

Yesterday, the Danish parliament approved measures that grant police officers powers to seize valuables from migrants, if valued over £1,000 and not of sentimental value, to pay for their keep in Denmark. Whilst acknowledging that the current situation is unprecedented, and outwith any experience of such an inflow in recent times, I have serious reservations. Put it bluntly, to my mind it is daylight, state-sponsored theft and robbery. Never, ever, have migrants into any European country been forced to hand over money to be able to stay. The migrants that are flocking into Europe usually have had to pay thousands of dollars for their passage across the Mediterranean, in leaky, rickety, unsafe craft, donned with lifevests that (in some instances) help you sink, rather than keep you buoyant in the water. 

As I have written before, the current migrant crisis has to be resolved internationally, involving all parties involved. Not just the European Union, but also Turkey, Russia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya (and other countries from which people flee). Turkey has turned a blind eye to the floods of people passing through its territory en-route to Greece. Russia is exacerbating the Syrian crisis by supporting the dictator Assad by bombing his opponents, under the pretext of fighting Daesh. Within a few months, weather conditions in the Mediterranean will improve as spring arrives. Unless something is done, 2016 will become a worse repeat of 2015. It will jeopardise the lives of the migrants, threaten the stability of Europe - something that would benefit nobody.

Holocaust Memorial Day 2016

Today it is 71 years ago since the infamous Auschwitz Birkenau concentration camp was liberated by Soviet forces. More than a million people, mainly Jews, were killed there during the Second World War. The process was conducted as an industrial process. To date, some of the goods left behind by the victims of the Holocaust remain on display. These include suitcases with name tags, spectacle frames, hair and shoes. I have never visited Auschwitz and am not likely to. January 27th is Holocaust Memorial Day, remembering all the victims of the Nazi's policy of extermination of all those they considered to be sub-human. We must never forget.