From my opinion column written for the Egremont 2Day newspaper. This one earned me my first hate mail!
The refugee crisis has been huge in the news recently and suddenly governments are no longer talking about ‘the immigration crisis’ and are now saying ‘oh well, of course we need to help refugees who are so desperate they risk their own children drowning to get here.”
This would be fine except the crisis has been going on for four years and we have, collectively as a nation, shook our heads in dismay whilst quietly closing the doors and locking them, just to make sure.
Despite the turn of public opinion, social media is rife with the same old opinions about why we can’t possibly take refugees here:
This country is full (no, we’re not)
They’re Muslims. Why can’t Muslim countries take them? (they have, in their millions)
They want to scrounge off state benefits (no. No one risks their lives because the UK will give them £36.95 per week to live on. Honestly)
They should stay and fight like we did in the war (except we didn’t. We were bombed by planes admittedly but, understandably, moved our kids out of cities to protect them. Otherwise we fought the war in other countries. We weren’t in a civil war with our own government while an invading force took over a third of the country and other countries bombed us to get at them)
They’ll steal our jobs (if someone with no contacts, no language and no local knowledge can take your job then you didn’t deserve it in the first place)
It’s not good for the environment and this country is already too polluted (I honestly don’t even know where to begin with this one and can’t believe people think like this)
The worst I saw though, was the comment that some Syrian refugees have smartphones and so clearly aren’t in dire need. One I saw on Facebook even said “they don’t look malnourished to me!”
It’s at such times I really want to slap people to wake up some dormant sense of humanity that I have to believe still lurks somewhere down there.
Syria isn’t a third-world country, folks; it’s a country which has been literally blown apart by war with not one but multiple enemies attacking it from all directions. People who were doctors, nurses, lawyers, accountants and teachers have scrambled together what’s left of their families and get them to safety. Children die en route but the refugees come anyway because they are reduced to that level of need. But at least they come with skills and a willingness to help our economy.
The fact is Europe can absorb all the Syrian refugees and barely notice it if all the countries work together. But we all seem to be asleep at the moment. Perhaps we’ve known peace and prosperity for too long and we’ve forgotten what it’s like to have need – real need?
I do hope we wake up and remember soon. Before any more children drown.