Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Egypt's hopes betrayed by Morsi (Guardian)

Bread, freedom and social justice were the demands of the revolution, writes Ahdaf Soueif. Instead Mohamed Morsi delivered bloodshed.

2. Against George Osborne's war on the poor (Independent)

The Chancellor used his Autumn Statement to attack many of the most vulnerable people in our society, says Owen Jones.

3. Conservatives should embrace gay marriage (Times) (£)

Angry voices in the Church and the party are out of touch with the country, says Tim Montgomerie. David Cameron must stand firm.

4. Why we are calling for an end to the war on drugs (Guardian)

The home affairs select committee wants a focus on treatment and an end to the policy of putting politics above evidence, writes Julian Huppert.

5. The fiscal cliff could split the Republicans (Financial Times)

If Obama persuades enough of the GOP to vote for a tax rise, the party may face civil war, says Edward Luce.

6. Ignore the doom merchants, Britain should get fracking (Daily Telegraph)

Shale gas is green, cheap and plentiful, says Boris Johnson. So why are opponents making such a fuss?

7. Those who would cancel a promise to black America (Guardian)

Racial inequality has deepened, yet Republicans want to ban affirmative action in college admissions, writes Gary Younge.

8. Politics have burst the Monti bubble (Financial Times)

Two things need fixing in Italy, both of which are beyond the scope of the technocrats, writes Wolfgang Munchau.

9. We are wallowing in Labour’s debt, so why is Ed blocking cuts? (Sun)

The Labour leader knows he is walking into a Tory trap and has decided it is worth the risk, writes Trevor Kavanagh.

10. Marriage matters, and it should be rewarded (Daily Telegraph)

Time is running out if David Cameron is to honour his pledge in the Coalition Agreement, writes Tim Loughton.

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Our treatment of today's refugees harks back to Europe's darkest hour

We mustn't forget the lessons of the Second World War in the face of today's refugee crisis, says Molly Scott Cato.

In the 1930s, thousands of persecuted people fled Europe. Our own press ignominiously reported these as "Stateless Jews pouring into this country" and various records exist from that time of public officials reassuring readers that no such thing would be allowed under their watch.

With the benefit of historical hindsight we now know what fate awaited many of those Jews who were turned away from sanctuary. Quite rightly, we now express horror about the Holocaust, an iconic example of the most shocking event of human history, and pledge ourselves to stop anything like it happening again. 

Yet as Europe faces its worst refugee crisis since the Second World War we are witnessing a deafening cacophony of xenophobic voices in response to people fleeing their own present-day horror. We must therefore reflect on whether there is an uncomfortable parallel in the language being used to describe those seeking asylum today and the language used to describe Jews seeking refuge in the 1930s.

Our response to the current refugee crisis suggests we feel fearful and threatened by the mass movement of desperate people; fearful not just of sharing what we have but also of the sense of disorganisation and chaos. Does the fact that these refugees are from Syria, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, and so not part of our continent, provide an excuse to allow them to be bombed at home or drowned during their desperate journey to safety?

We are not helped by the poorly informed public debate which—perhaps intentionally—conflates three quite different movements of people: free movement within the EU, irregular or unauthorised migration and the plight of the Middle Eastern refugees. While our misguided foreign policy and unwillingness to tackle change may give us a moral responsibility for those fleeing famine and conflict, our responsibility towards refugees from war zones is clear under international law.

Due to our commitments to the UN Refugee Convention, the vast majority of Syrian refugees who reach our territory are given asylum but the UK has taken fewer Syrian refugees than many other European countries. While Germany admitted around 41,000 asylum-seekers in 2014 alone, the UK has taken in fewer than 7000.

The problem is that any sense of compassion we feel conflicts with our perception of the economic constraints we face. In spite of being the fifth largest economy in the world we feel poor and austerity makes us feel insecure. However, when actually confronted with people in crisis our humanity can come to the fore. A friend who spent her holiday in Greece told me that she saw local people who are themselves facing real poverty sharing what they had with the thousands of refugees arriving from Turkey.

A straightforward response to the growing sense of global crisis would be to restore the authority of the UN in managing global conflict, a role fatally undermined by Tony Blair's decision to go to war in Iraq. Our role should be to support UN efforts in bringing about strong governments in the region, not taking the misguided ‘coalition of the willing’ route and running foreign policy based on self-interest and driven by the demands of the oil and arms industries.

We also need EU policy-makers to show leadership in terms of solidarity: to co-operate over the acceptance of refugees and finding them safe routes into asylum, something the European Greens have consistently argued for. The EU Commission and Parliament are in clear agreement about the need for fixed quotas for member states, a plan that is being jeopardised by national government’s responding to right-wing rather than compassionate forces in their own countries.

Refugees from war-torn countries of the Middle East need asylum on a temporary basis, until the countries they call home can re-establish security and guarantee freedom from oppression.

The responsibility of protecting refugees is not being shared fairly and I would appeal to the British people to recall our proud history of offering asylum. Without the benefit of mass media, the excuse of ignorance that can help to explain our failure to act in the 1930s is not available today. We must not repeat the mistakes of that time in the context of today’s crisis, mistakes which led to the deaths of so many Jews in the Nazi death camps. 

Molly Scott Cato is Green MEP for the South West of England.

Molly Scott Cato is Green MEP for the southwest of England, elected in May 2014. She has published widely, particularly on issues related to green economics. Molly was formerly Professor of Strategy and Sustainability at the University of Roehampton.