A Letter from Steve

Dear Boat Person,

Just a short note to let you know we’re thinking about you at this troubled time in your life.

Unfortunately, your tales of brutality at the hands of your own government, of reprisals, summary executions and torture, arbitrary imprisonment and other violations of your most basic human rights are, well, unpleasant.  We don’t like hearing these things.  We do wish you’d spare us your anguish, your haunted eyes, your look of desperation.  It’s such a bother.

Yes, we know that if you show up at our ports of entry and make messy claims of this sort we’re supposed to give you a fair hearing, not just arbitrarily turn you back — and even offer you refuge if the claims seem to hold up.

Previous Canadian governments saw fit to sign on to refugee conventions and protocols and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights that, as would common decency, require we do exactly that.

But, while we like to wear the shiny lapel pin at parties, we find dealing with such technicalities tiresome.  It’s not us, really.  It costs time and money, and, well, as we said, it’s messy and inconvenient, isn’t it?  And you know we don’t like to interfere in people’s private lives;  your problems, are, after all, your problems, not ours, and we are deeply concerned about your privacy.

So we’re going to ramp up our efforts to keep you home from now on, and keep those ugly stories away.  Problem solved.  Out of sight, out of mind, and all that.  Tidy.  And it’ll be way better for you, too, avoiding those hopeful, but long, cramped and over-crowded sea voyages with little food and water.

No, we’re not interested in trying to induce your government to change their ways, to get them to respect your human rights; that would be meddling in the internal affairs of another country.  It might help solve the real problem, but it’s just too hard and takes too long, and it’s really not our style.  We find that it works way better for us when we don’t like a message if we simply go after the messenger.

So what we’re going to do is to set you up as a possible terrorist or international criminal, just the sort of person we really don’t want around — maybe a human smuggler or trafficker, though for the life of us there’s no basis for that either.  But, not to worry, we’ll make it work somehow;  facts are never an issue.  And that government that is persecuting you?  We’re going to take them at face value on this;  they obviously know you better than we do and it’ll really help us sell our new “tough borders” policy.  We like tough.

We’re also going to set you up as being an endless drain on our resources:  a leech, or a welfare bum;  that’ll help, too, even though odds are that if we let you in you’ll become a proud and productive citizen and return many-fold any investment we could make in your freedom.  That’s just bleeding heart liberalism;  we find scapegoats and fear are way easier to work with.

Then, icing on the cake, we’ll portray you as an illegal immigrant and queue-jumper;  no matter that your arrival in this way is quite legal, and that there’s no queue anyway;  it’s always good grist for the mill.

So, after framing this as a law and order issue, we can flex our “tough on crime” muscles again (good stuff!) and beef up our laws so we can be even more bull-headed, never mind those pesky technicalities;  some “security concerns” or “sovereignty” shtick should do it.  And, as we said, we like tough.

Finally, we’ll be able to get to the very root of the problem — we’re going to work really closely with your government (remember? the one oppressing you?) and share intelligence so we’ll all know better just who you are, and what you’re up to, and then we can nip right in the bud these tedious efforts to escape to freedom that so trouble us.  No, it’s not willful collusion with tyranny, though it sure looks like it;  it’s really just scratching each other’s backs on crime prevention.  They like tough, too.

In any event, sorry you couldn’t stay longer, but thanks for dropping-by.  All the best to the family.  Do keep in touch, particularly if you’re planning another cruise.  I hear the Med’s nice this time of year.

Best Regards,
Steve and the gang

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