Since the picture of the poor dead Syrian boy went viral a few days ago, the mass media, from newspapers to social networks such as Facebook, has been dominated by the humanitarian disaster known to many of us in Britain as the ‘Migrant Crisis’. Prime Minister David Cameron, among others, expressed his emotions to seeing the aforementioned image https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQ85AU-vF2s.
It is about time that Britain pulled her finger out and helped.
Throughout this Summer, thousands of migrants have tried to storm the Channel tunnel at Calais, or enter Britain inside lorries, either with or without the driver’s consent and knowledge. For a look at the events in Calais, why not check out these links:
Many of those trekking through Hungary and Austria (for Germany), or trying to cross the channel through Calais (for Britain), come from Syria.
As you will probably know, the war in Syria started with the pro-democracy uprisings in March 2011, when Syrian security forces shot dead protesters in the southern city of Deraa. Consequently, riots broke out around the country. A civil war, exacerbated by the involvement of ISIS, has been raging ever since. For a much better and detailed timeline,check out this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-14703995.
For a more in-depth look at the origins of the uprising itself: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-17344858.
This mass exodus from the Middle East and parts of East Africa (such as Sudan and Eritrea), on a scale hitherto unseen since the end of the Second World War, did not begin in 2015. Rather, it has been the subject of many a front-page article for a few years now. However, the pressure on the UK government to accept larger numbers of refugees is relatively recent. Nicola Sturgeon has recently voiced such a demand, adding Scotland’s own willingness to help – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-34146653. A petition calling for Westminster to accept greater numbers of refugees into the U.K. has, as the author writes, received 421,966 signatures https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/105991.
Since this is a blog, I must inflict upon you my own thoughts and feelings: I for one believe that, regardless of all short term problems such as housing et cetera, the UK should try to accommodate as many refugees as possible. As the grandson of a Dutch Jew who fled the Nazis in May 1940, I very much agree with the views expressed effectively in this article in the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/simon-wallfisch/calais_b_7918766.html.
Britain can be a beacon of freedom; a safe-haven to those who need, and deserve, our friendship and hospitality. Yes, I know, my familial connection means that I am quite biased. But it also means that I am more grateful for my freedoms and privileges. The thousands of people trying to cross the Mediterranean every Summer, on inadequate boats and with little chance of success, deserve our admiration and assistance. They are trying to flee war and persecution and, like my Grandfather, make a better life for themselves. Thus, they should be helped; not demonised as they are being so by much of the media.
Many, though not all, in Britain, fear these migrants and refugees. For those who know little about this, it is part of a more widespread hatred of immigrants in general: such a base fear is disturbingly popular at the moment; this is evidenced in the recent success of the political party UKIP, notably in the 2014 elections to the EU Parliament, during which they obtained 24 seats. Many Brits assume that immigrants arrive in the U.K. solely to live off NHS benefits (which is what many lazy Brits do), and “steal our jobs” – the view is commonly phrased as such.
Unfortunately such prejudicial views of immigrants in general, manifest in newspapers such as the Daily Mail, and very much part of the policies of UKIP, have affected people’s views of the refugees fleeing wars such as those in Syria and East Africa. Even David Cameron used the poorly thought-out words “a swarm” to describe the people trying to seek sanctuary in the UK.
These views obscure the real picture. The thousands of people trying to enter Britain and Germany, or arrive off the shores of Sicily and Italy, are literally fleeing the chaos ravaging their homelands. They are concerned primarily with political security and stability, rather than economic benefits. Although the latter will of course be attractive to them. But then, why wouldn’t it be? If I had to flee war-torn South London, which was (WARNING: exaggeration) a distinct possibility during the Croydon riots of 2011, then I would opt for the most politically and economically safe choice. For many from the war-zones of the Middle East and East Africa, Europe is a relative paradise.
Moreover: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-33907741. As illustrated in this online article, many come because they find English an easier language to learn than, for instance, French. Additionally, others want to improve their education: twenty-seven-year-old Amaamer from Sudan, for example, wants to learn at Cambridge University. None of those interviewed in the above article expressed a desire to join the cast of Channel 4’s Benefits Street. They are fleeing war-torn regions. That should put to bed the fallacious idea that the refugees are “comin’ over ‘ere” to be lazy, surely?
Surely not. People will have their prejudices, and will always do. Regardless, it is Britain’s time and duty, as a democracy and moral guide to Europe and the world, to help these refugees/illegal immigrants. The Germans are welcoming them into Munich, for goodness sake! The irony of persecuted peoples being warmly welcomed upon arrival at the birth of Nazism is positively violent. It is somewhat perturbing that the white cliffs of Dover are less appealing to the desperate than the beer halls of Munich. (I know it is inaccurate but it’s the best thing I’ve written dammit)
Regarding all immigrants, for a moment: if they are willing to work hard, then why can’t they live here? Heck, if they are willing to put up with Katie Hopkins, I’ll buy them a semi-detached house in Slough personally. (Just kidding, I won’t. The poor bastards have suffered enough).