The migrants are coming. They want in. Europe is their Promised Land, a safe haven from war, hunger and persecution. They are desperate and brave, crossing oceans to get here. But the waves are not parting for them. Many drown. We watch them approach with trepidation. There are so many of them. A horde, a “swarm” of migrants, climbing over fences, hiding in lorries, sleeping on the streets, crowding into train stations, trying to break through our defences. But we don’t want them. We slam our doors into their faces. Hungary even considered building a wall to keep migrants out. Go away, we say, we have already given you lots of money, what more do you want? A life, they say. A future. But we do not care. Not much anyway. Our compassion is, before it can prompt us act, curtailed by our presumed self-interest and self-righteousness. We are worried about murderous Muslims sneaking in undetected. We are worried about limited resources that we would have to share with them. We are worried about so many strangers living in our country. But mostly we feel that they are coming for what is rightfully ours and that they have no right to it. After all, we tell ourselves, it is not our fault that their country lies in tatters. We have simply done a much better job of holding it all together. They should do the same rather than come here and make claims on the fruits of our hard work and good sense, which we alone deserve to consume because it is we who planted the trees from which they have sprung.
Except, of course, we didn’t. Most of us have actually contributed very little, if anything, to the wealth, comfort, and peace that we have become used to enjoy as a matter of course. And what we have contributed we have been able to contribute only because we were fortunate enough to be born into a country where such a contribution was possible. We benefit from what others have done before us. It is largely the fruits of their labour that we eat. We are the lucky ones. None of us deserves what we have got, at least not more than those who had the misfortune of being born into the wrong area of the world. We are the lucky ones. If we deserve anything, we deserve it by virtue of being human, that is, by virtue of having certain human needs: which is in the first instance the need for food and safety, but then also for recognition and dignity. And we are all migrants. We have all come to the place where we live now at some time. Some came there when they were born, others later. It makes no difference. We don’t own our places.
We should also keep in mind that the situation in which we find ourselves can change anytime. A war, an epidemic, a natural disaster, an economic crisis can easily take it all away from us. Soon it may be we who seek refuge in other parts of the world. We may not always remain the lucky ones. Let us hope the world will then not close its doors on us.