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'We shouldn't fear the 'racist' label when bringing criminals to justice'

It is wrong to ignore this issue, but equally wrong to punish every man, woman and child who enters Europe for the crimes of a few.

Aaron McKenna

A BABY BOY, drowned on a beach after an attempt to flee a war torn land for one of the safest and most prosperous regions in the world.

That is the moral impetus that saw Europe throw its gates open, in however a ramshackle and chaotic way, to a mass wave of immigration that is crashing to our shores.

We squabble amongst ourselves as to who should take the migrants and refugees, whether we should take them at all and their motivations for coming here.

Whether we like it or not, this mass of humanity is on the move; driven by warfare and economic and political strife. I think immigration in and of itself is no bad thing. For a start, we have a legal duty to help those fleeing war.

We also have a moral duty as inhabitants, of one of the richest parts of the world, to not allow people to die whilst trying to escape their circumstances, through no fault of their own, as inhabitants of the most afflicted.

No time for xenophobes or racist bigots 

I have no time for knee jerk xenophobes, who somehow think that they’re so pure and wonderful because they happened to be born white and healthy in the first world. But I also recognise that the current mass wave of immigration will provide plenty of grist to the mill of racist bigots if we do not address some of the very real problems that come with it.

Some immigrants coming from patriarchal societies have a serious problem with women. It is a problem that manifests itself in a variety of ways, from contentions over veils to sexual and other assaults. These problems are not confined to Muslims, as what you might be led to believe from some social commentary. We have seen similar from India and Christian parts of Africa.

Nor are the most heinous of these crimes committed by more than a small minority of the numbers entering Europe, most of whom are themselves victims of brutality of one kind or another. This is a key thing to remember.

MEP Brian Hayes said last year that more needs to be done to make sure migrants feel Ireland.

He said young people in particular can feel marginalised in the country and can become increasingly isolated from mainstream life in Ireland.

The only way to challenge that is make sure that these young people feel part and parcel of their country, that they have been brought up in, but also part and parcel of the European Union.

Integration

Hayes said in order to tackle the issues migration brings to these shores, an “integrationist approach” should be adopted, not an “exclusionist neo-right approach”.

However, the tendency in official circles has been to ignore these problems for fear of stigmatising all migrants and playing into the hands of far-right, racist groups.

Inevitably, however, stories come to light and officials look either like they’re covering up or they’re incompetent in the extreme. This feeds a narrative that makes every new story about immigrants and crime seem like the drip feeding of a massive conspiracy of silence coming undone.

In the UK we have seen a number of cases come to light since the turn of the decade.

There have been over 11,000 cases of “honour crimes” recorded against women in the UK over a five year period, a figure which is likely to be an understatement.

In response to the figures, Sir Thomas Winsor, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, said that “our findings show that honour-based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation are not yet being given the priority by the police service that victims deserve.”

To quote the independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, a case involving over 1,400 children, “by far the majority of perpetrators were described as ‘Asian’ by victims. Several staff described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought racist; others remembered clear direction from their managers not to do so.”

The problem of police not dealing effectively with the crimes is not confined to the UK. Just this week in Sweden there has been a scandal involving 38 reports of rape and sexual assault at a pop festival, perpetrated it is alleged by male Afghan refugees.

Police allegedly sat on the case, with an official spokesperson telling Swedish media that they could not explain why the general public was not informed of the investigations.

We can see some parallels to the cases around Germany on New Years, and in Cologne in particular, from the Arab Spring. A remarkable side effect of the Spring was to highlight, through the mass media coverage on the ground, amazing amounts of sexual and other violence perpetrated against women.

Hundreds of women were sexually assaulted and raped on the famous Tahir Square, in a country where 99.3% of women have reported being sexually harassed and 91.1% have suffered genital mutilation. Several western media reporters were also brutally attacked, including ABC’s Lara Logan who described almost being scalped by her frenzied mob of attackers.

Back in the UK, Mohammed Shafiq, a youth worker and head of the Ramadhan Foundation, said in an interview, “There are some people in my community, the Pakistani community, the elders, who think that the best thing to do is just ignore it and assume it is all a British National Party and English Defence League conspiracy. I think that is really dangerous, it gives oxygen to the far right.”

Failure to address these crimes will hinder integration 

He’s right. A failure to address these crimes and the underlying cultural biases that drive them will be the undoing of any successful integration in Europe over the coming years.

This is starting to be addressed in some countries. Bavaria is launching legal classes for refugees that will focus on give newcomers an early “understanding of basic values.” Denmark is also considering such proposals. Norway has been offering migrants lessons on how to treat women for some time now.

Amongst all these stories it is worth remembering that it is a small percentage of immigrants who are committing these heinous crimes.

It is for this very reason that we must tackle the issue head on, for the benefit both of potential victims and to ensure that the majority of law abiding immigrants are not punished for the actions of a few.

It is wrong to ignore these crimes, as report after report in the UK has admonished officials for doing; and it is equally wrong to punish every man, woman and child who enters Europe for the crimes of a few.

We must tackle the issue robustly, never fearing the label of “racist” whilst catching criminals or finding common sense solutions to changing entrenched cultural norms.

At the same time, we must not give in to racism in trying to find solutions to these problems. To do so is to cheapen our own view of ourselves as enlightened people.

Aaron McKenna is a businessman on columnist for TheJournal.ie. You can follow him on Twitter here

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