A question of WHY

Published in The Hague/Amsterdam/Rotterdam Times 11 August 2006, page 14

Two lines in last week’s feature “Cabinet collapse: the rise and fall of Balkenedende II “really stood out for me. First, “ … Hirsi Ali got to keep her passport, which had become rather important for Hirsi Ali personally, as she needed it to get a visa to the US.” And second, “If I (Hirsi Ali) would sign the statement, the whole problem would be solved … The pace of the matter was more important than a little pride. I wanted to continue with my life.” In my opinion these two lines go beyond the rise and fall of this government, and they highlight the plight of immigrants and asylum seekers the world over, people much less prominent than Hirsi Ali. I think the debate was simply political posturing. Of course she lied about her name and about where she was coming from. We shouldn’t be questioning whether or not she lied, but WHY. Why do people feel compelled to lie on immigration documents or to desperate lengths to sneak in to developed countries? What is the root cause of a rising tide of illegal immigration all over the world? People go to desperate measures because poverty, persecution, environmental disasters, or war make staying at home impossible, and because immigration policies in the countries they are trying to enter are so stringent that it is easy to believe telling the truth will lessen ones chances of successful entry. I don’t agree with all of Hirsi Ali’s opinions and I’m fairly sure she doesn’t agree with mine, but I understand why she lied in 1992 and why she signed the statement that led to the fall of the government: her future was hanging in the balance and she wanted to get on with her life. We should be asking ourselves, as pointed out in the editorial, what is the root cause of the problems that are triggering mass human migration, and we should be asking ourselves if visa policies that make a person with a passport for one country seem more valuable than a person from another are really humane. Just as an immigration decision has determined the life and death of this government, the lives and deaths of hundreds of thousands of migrants hang in the balance all over the world everyday. The time is ripe to consider their stories and to examine the WHY?

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