As well as proving to be the most intractable challenge that Europe has faced for a generation, the current migrant crisis has also revealed the profound consequences of gesture politics.
For we are now told that the cost of every Syrian refugee who comes to Britain will be up to £24,000 each — a year.
These official figures imply a total bill for taxpayers of up to £2 billion for the 20,000 migrants that the Government has pledged to take in here over the next four years.
By their vain grandstanding, some of our EU partners — especially Germany’s Angela Merkel, who has said she would be happy to take 800,000 Syrian migrants in 2015 alone — have made the predicament much worse.
Their promises to open the door mean we are confronted by an unprecedented continental exodus, not just from Syria, but from countries such as Nigeria and Bangladesh.
Only Britain wisely insisted on dealing with the crisis at its source, by focusing its response on refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Indeed, more than £1 billion of the British foreign aid budget has already been spent on these camps, more than any other country except the United States.
The Government initially refused to be carried away by media hysteria, led by the BBC, which falsely suggested the public overwhelmingly backed an open-door policy. In fact, polls have shown a clear majority against it all along.
Then, after pictures of a drowned child washed up on a Turkish beach last month tugged at the nation’s heart-strings, the Prime Minister gave in to his critics and did what he had vowed never to do: he made up policy on the hoof and offered hospitality to 20,000 refugees.
I fear that the figure was plucked from the air and little thought given to the repercussions for those whose communities would be transformed by their presence — let alone to how this gesture would be paid for.
The implications of David Cameron’s grand gesture remain shrouded in mystery, because the Home Office has so far refused to give details. We still don’t know how many Syrians have entered Britain, where they are housed, or whether they will stay permanently. The figures about costs only became public because someone at the Home Office leaked the document.
It says the annual cost per Syrian refugee to local councils is estimated to be £8,520 per person. On top of this, central government will be forced to pay £12,700 in benefits and £2,200 for medical care.
The likelihood is the real cost will be higher. Not only is it likely that family members of the original 20,000 will subsequently be allowed here, but the initial figure will not include a host of ancillary costs.
For example, because many refugees are likely to have post-traumatic conditions that will place a new burden on the overstretched mental health services of the NHS. None of this, however, has prevented liberal critics from denouncing the Prime Minister’s gesture as insufficiently generous.
Last week, we were given a lecture by the judiciary, including former Master of the Rolls and Lord Chief Justice Woolf and former head of the Supreme Court Lord Phillips, in an open letter signed by 300 of their profession.
Sir Stephen Sedley, a former appeal court judge, declared that the figure of 20,000 was ‘wholly inadequate’, while another judge said we should be taking 75,000 refugees a year.
Of course, the entire human rights lobby lined up behind these indignant lawyers. And now the bishops have weighed in. No fewer than 84 of them are demanding that the number of refugees to be settled here should more than double to 50,000.
Quite rightly, Mr Cameron gave a robust response to this self-aggrandising display of episcopal emotion: the bishops were, he said, simply ‘wrong’.
Ludicrous as the spectacle of the Church of England lecturing the elected Government may seem, the power of the liberal establishment to influence policy should not be underestimated.
The upper echelons of the Conservative Party are so desperate to appear ‘compassionate’ they may prevail on Mr Cameron to make further gestures to appease the great and the good at the expense of ordinary people.
For it is never the bleeding-heart liberals who have to put up with the nightmarish problems that inevitably shadow large-scale, uncontrolled immigration.
The bishops and senior judges are not the ones who live next door to asylum seekers; their children don’t go to school alongside pupils who speak no English; they don’t compete with migrant families for public services or housing.
The fact is that, as more hard-headed liberals such as David Goodhart, of the Integration Hub think-tank, point out, integrating migrants is a slow, painful and expensive business.
Even if a small fraction of the people who would like to come here now were welcomed, he says, the infrastructure and traditions that make Britain a desirable destination would be destroyed.
History tells us it took centuries to integrate much smaller numbers of Huguenot, Irish and Jewish migrants. Why should it be easier for the millions who have come to our shores over the past two decades?
We only need to glance across the North Sea to Germany to see how disastrously gesture politics can turn out.
Even as Angela Merkel was basking in the praise showered on her by global do-gooders — she narrowly failed to win the Nobel Peace Prize last week — her country was slowly descending into chaos as hundreds of thousands of migrants rushed across its borders.
Already, Germans who initially supported Merkel’s open-door policy are changing their minds, as leaked reports show that as many as 1.5 million migrants may arrive by the end of this year.
Polls show a growing majority saying ‘enough is enough’. And while makeshift refugee centres are denounced by liberal critics as ‘concentration camps’ — a phrase that resonates more for Germans than anybody — there is the deeply worrying prospect of an anti-immigrant backlash.
In Germany, the far-Right has been kept in check since 1945, but now the taboo is being overcome amid a genuine fear the country is being overrun. Ethnic and religious conflict, both between asylum seekers and Germans, and among the refugees themselves, is rising.
Last Saturday, Mrs Merkel’s candidate to be mayor of Cologne was stabbed and seriously injured by a man protesting against the government’s policy. Meanwhile, in neighbouring Austria and Switzerland, anti-immigrant parties are polling at around 30 per cent, and in France the National Front is also riding high. It is surely only a matter of time before the same trend hits Germany, too.
When it does, Mrs Merkel will be to blame for breaking with the tradition of her predecessors — Chancellors Adenauer, Brandt, Schmidt and Kohl — who prevented the revival of anything resembling the Nazi party by making sure Hitler’s brand of racist demagogy had no issue on which to gain traction in modern Germany.
The ineluctable truth is that all over Europe, panic induced by migration policy spiralling out of control is fuelling extremist politics. The seeds were sown by the do-gooders’ rhetoric; soon Europeans will reap the whirlwind.
What about Britain? The Labour Party has been taken over by far-Left fanatics who exult in the idea of open borders, mass migration and multi-culturalism. The Conservatives are rightly filled with foreboding at this prospect, but seem powerless to get a grip on immigration.
That will continue for as long as we submit to an EU diktat insisting the principle of ‘free movement’ of people entails not only who we must allow in, but how we must support them once here.
The tragedy is that the Prime Minister appears to have dropped any demands to regain control over UK borders as part of his increasingly ridiculous renegotiation of Britain’s EU membership. It beggars belief he could so betray the voters who re-elected him over the one issue on which the British are almost unanimous: immigration.
The exception to this unanimity, of course, is the liberal establishment, which deplores any border controls. With the bishops in the vanguard, these people betray an astonishing detachment from reality.
These are, after all, the same prelates who never cease to criticise Tory austerity, especially cuts in tax credits that hit some of our poorest working families. Yet by demanding we accept another 30,000 refugees at a cost of billions, they are making even more certain our own working people will lose out.
David Cameron must continue to reject their well-meaning but misguided advice and make policy with his head, not his heart. In dealing with migration, as elsewhere, charity begins at home.
n Daniel Johnson is Editor of Standpoint.