You are here:   Civilisation >  Books > The 'British Model': Give Refugees Work
The book, indeed, has its genesis in a trip they took together to the Za’atari camp in Jordan in 2015. Refugees in Jordan, as in most other places, are generally not allowed to work. (Uganda is a notable exception, praised by the authors, where refugees have thrived.) But the two men noticed that just up the road from the Za’atari camp there was an under-used industrial park. They subsequently came up with the Jordan Compact to get refugees working in the park, a plan backed by the Jordanian government, David Cameron and the World Bank.

The Compact, now being copied in Ethiopia too, could transform the lives of refugees around the world by giving them purpose and dignity and also making them useful to host countries. The idea is that special zones will attract Western companies whose goods then have privileged access to Western markets — buying “refugee” could soon become as common as buying fair trade for socially conscious consumers.

Britain has been closely involved with the Jordan Compact and this book might be seen as a manifesto for a new hardheaded “British model” in fulfilling our moral obligations to refugees at a distance. We have taken in few refugees in recent years (though we have selected some of the most vulnerable from camps) but have spent more than any comparable country in host countries.

Angela Merkel’s display of the “headless heart” in 2015, by contrast, gets a thorough drubbing. Not only did it hugely increase flows and boost the people-smugglers: it also tore up the EU’s Dublin rules (under which refugees must apply for asylum in the first EU country they arrive in), alienated all of eastern Europe, contributed to the Brexit vote, intensified the conflict in Syria itself, and by denuding the country of so much of its educated elite has made reconstruction harder. The road to hell . . .

The book is clearly written, though suffers from a rather didactic tone in parts. It is full of illuminating asides such as how mobile phones came to trigger the Arab Spring. I was unconvinced, however, by the theory that the number of refugees is on an upward trajectory because the world is getting more violent. Surely all forms of movement are rising because the poor world has a larger middle class, some of whom are desperate to get out and are more likely to have the means to do so. I spotted two mistakes: Poland was not a member of the EU in the 1990s; the famous “Breaking Point” poster in the Brexit referendum was a UKIP poster, not a Leave campaign poster (and was denounced by one of the leading Leavers, Michael Gove).

But this is an important book that transcends the moralism of so much refugee coverage, for example the Guardian journalist Patrick Kingsley’s book The New Odyssey, that urges us just to empathise with individuals. Betts and Collier are not short of empathy but can also look at the bigger picture. They may thereby have helped to improve millions of lives.

View Full Article

Post your comment

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.