FIGAROVOX / BIG INTERVIEW – The Porte de la Chapelle migrant camp was dismantled on Friday. Pascal Bruckner takes stock of the migratory situation in France and Europe, and calls on the President of the Republic to combine ethics and responsibility.
Pascal Bruckner is a philosopher, essayist and novelist. He recently published The wisdom of money (ed. Grasset, 2016) and An imaginary racism (ed. Grasset, 2017).
FIGAROVOX.- More than 2700 migrants were evacuated from camps located in the north of Paris. For a few months, the migratory chaos had settled at Porte de La Chapelle: epidemic of scabies, heaps of waste, almost daily tensions with the police. What inspires you?
Pascal BRUCKNER.- What you call the migratory chaos did not start with the crisis of 2015 or the one we are experiencing today. Already ten years ago, France experienced the massive influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe, whom summary categorizations call Roma. They have created slums around Paris and turned most of our sidewalks into dormitories where entire families beg while exhibiting infants, toddlers and pets. At the same time, gangs of young people, girls and boys, with often remarkable know-how, hold tourists and passers-by to ransom.
What have governments of the right and the left done? Very little, if anything. It would have sufficed to prohibit begging in most of our cities to cut short what is a traffic controlled by the mafias of Central and Eastern Europe, including prostitution, brutality, corporal punishment towards those who do not bring in enough. How can we be surprised then that the question of refugees, of another numerical and symbolic importance, is not dealt with, including in Paris? Thousands of Africans, Kurds and Afghans are languishing in the streets in abject conditions, unworthy of our country and the State blames the town hall, which shifts the blame to the prefecture.
This evacuation is the 34th since June 2015 in Paris. Is the problem insoluble?
This is indeed the paradox: France, rightly scalded by the attacks of 2015 and 2016, has welcomed very few refugees from the Middle East or sub-Saharan Africa and yet we are talking about "submersion". In figures, and in comparison with Germany or even Italy or Greece, it's a drop in the bucket, barely 30 I believe against more than a million in our big neighbour. This stems, in my view, from a policy of denial specific to our governments: we acted as if it did not concern us, as if the flood of men and women streaming into Europe only affected Italy, Greece or Spain but miraculously spared us. We consoled ourselves by explaining that they only wanted to go to England.
We must tackle the problem head-on and congratulate ourselves, for example, that the Minister of the Interior refused the construction of a new camp in Calais and evacuated the young men in distress from the Porte de la Chapelle. But we are not in a competition of hearts with Germany, whatever one thinks of Angela Merkel's policy of opening the borders of her country to one million Syrians: we must begin by distinguishing between political refugees and economic migrants, to treat , help the former and, if necessary, encourage their repatriation to their homes if they express the desire to do so, but categorically refuse the others.
In her book "the wave", Élise Vincent, a journalist from World writes, "The government has been overwhelmed to the point of submergence during these three years." However, according to certain observers and certain associations, France would have welcomed a derisory number of migrants compared to Germany... During the presidential campaign, Macron himself had declared in Berlin that Angela Merkel had "saved the honor of Europe” and that welcoming migrants was “a duty” for France…
We are on the wrong track by approaching the question solely from the angle of compassion, or of generosity by remaining in the domain of affects. .Never has the Weberian division between the ethics of conviction and the ethics of responsibility been so relevant as in this area. In this debate, we only hear the beautiful souls who have pure hands but have no hands. They are not the ones who have lived in Calais for years or Porte de la Chapelle. On the individual level, in a country with a Catholic culture like ours, we cannot prevent private citizens and associations from coming to the aid of “travellers in misfortune” (Erri de Luca).
Seeing women and children stranded on the beaches, drowning in the waves, shivering with cold encourages nothing but solidarity, help. There is discomfort in seeing magistrates convicting individuals for having helped wanderers, the homeless, having transported them from one country to another across mountain ridges or in the trunks of their cars. That said, pity is an admirable feeling but only up to a point. In no case does it forge a policy. But this policy, we expect it from the leaders; it will no doubt be firm and perhaps harsh in certain respects, but it must enable Europe to regain control of these migratory flows which may eventually overwhelm it. This is why it will inevitably be necessary to reestablish borders in the East and in the South to dry up the flow of newcomers, as is already the case between Spain and Morocco, Eastern Europe and Turkey by an agreement, which some consider shameful, but which constitutes a lesser evil.
It is now with Libya that the game will be played. Borders are not what separates men but allows them to live in harmony. Doors are needed to build bridges between peoples. Otherwise, the world becomes a hall of lost steps, a station hall without unity or coherence. Candidates for exile must be discouraged through agreements with local governments rather than making them false promises that cannot be kept. Conversely, imagine that millions of Europeans want to disembark in makeshift boats in Africa or the Middle East? How would we qualify these people? Invaders, colonials, neither more nor less.
Can we really blame France and the French for not being generous enough? How to combine ethics and responsibility?
Two things to come back to reality. As the demographer Hervé le Bras rightly points out, migrants do not leave their families to escape “poverty”, those who leave are already the most educated, the best trained and have a small nest egg to pay for their long journey. The disinherited, the damned of the earth do not even have the strength to leave their native country. Finally, according to certain predictions and given the demographic boom in sub-Saharan Africa, several tens of millions of people are likely to land on the shores of the Old World in the years to come.
Are we ready to undergo this demographic, cultural, linguistic and religious shock? Do we believe that men are atoms without soul or tradition that we can transplant, take cuttings elsewhere without problem? Moreover, immigrationism forgets one detail: it is that the policy of systematic openness, advocated by a certain "humanist" left, is part of a new slave trade which enriches thousands of slave traders, smugglers no less cruel, rapacious than those of past centuries. To want to welcome all potential migrants is to commit a double fault: not to give ourselves the means to make them live decently with us, for lack of work or housing, to participate in the drain of brains, of talents which weakens even more the countries of origin.
I don't forget what the authorities of Iraqi Kurdistan explained to us two years ago: they cursed the Western powers for attracting all the Kurdish youth to their country by emptying the universities and the families. Notice to contemporary humanists: are you not, in your good conscience, accomplices of contemporary slavers guilty of emptying Africa and the Middle East of their fittest children?
Since his election, Macron has been discreet on the issue. What should we expect from the President of the Republic?
We must expect President Macron to speak the double language of dignity and reality. He must not give in to the blackmail of the victim, to the marketing of affliction which the media use and abuse. But deploy a long-term vision of drying up flows while demanding from the public authorities humane treatment of foreigners present on our territory. If he succeeds in this bet, he will be the hero of Europe.
Source: © Le Figaro Premium – Pascal Bruckner: "Emmanuel Macron's real challenge is migratory chaos"
I always appreciate the positions of P Bruckner. if the opposite happened, if Europeans arrived en masse in Africa, in the near and middle east, they would be fought as invaders, colonialists etc…
borders are necessary and our "without borders" are for the best sweet dreamers, but above all irresponsible and ignorant of the realities of life