It is interesting how far the logic behind the asylum system has shifted down the years. The first UN Convention, in 1951, dealt with people made homeless by the changing map of Europe (including millions of Germans driven out of Prussia). It was never intended, nor even imagined, that vast numbers of people from failed states would move permanently into Europe, marking the continent’s greatest movement of people since the barbarian invasions.

There are many arguments to be made against our current policy, the prime one being that it enables dictators to rid themselves of troublesome elements, and for failed societies to avoid confronting their problems; more pertinently, with birth rates in the most disastrous countries far outstripping death rates, there is no simply no foreseeable end (Afghanistan, for instance, has a fertility rate of 6.42 children per woman).

And next year, as conditions worsen in the Middle East – Iraq is surely going to collapse, as anyone not on the political equivalent of lithium could have predicted – libraries across Europe will start to notice increasing demand for history books about the fall of Rome.

There are, of course, many other similarities between our age and the late Roman Empire: a declining birth rate, especially marked among upper-class women; a collapse in religious belief and the growth of a more vital and passionate monotheistic faith from the Middle East; a shrunken attachment to the ideal of the country – patriotism – and increased attachment to the state, a state which virtually all ambitious, educated people wished to work for.

Today the large taxpayer-funded charitable sector is one area of the state that attracts well-educated and idealistic people. On the radio this morning Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council (88 per cent state-funded) argued that refugees have a “right to protection in Europe and we have to do our bit to uphold that”. (One thing I will say for the Refugee Council – unlike many politically active charities, they do not appear to take money from the EU).

Do Afghans have a “right” to protection in Europe? Who granted them such a right? God? Nature? The UN? What right do I have to live in, say, Afghanistan, assuming I was insane?

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