Human Sympathy

If the story of some 70 people dying an agonising death in a lorry in Austria after, no doubt, risking life and limb to escape some brutal war, does not move people, god knows what would.

For a while now my best beloved has been collecting facts on immigrants and refugees – and no they are not the same despite the best efforts of some to conflate the issues.

I want to get something as cogent as the Daily Mail but from the other side. I am sure it is out there, but I haven’t laid my hands on it yet.

I want something that I could take to the pub and silence the voices that say, ‘Yes, I know, those poor people. But we are a small and overcrowded island and really we just can’t take any more.’

I haven’t got that killer piece in my hand, so I will just carry on with what I have got.

Here are just a few facts that might come in handy tomorrow night in the pub.

At the end of 2014 there were 19.5 million refugees worldwide.

Some 42,500 people a day left their homes and their usual lives to try and get to a place of safety.

Not only would the journey be dangerous but it is important to think about what it would be like for us if we had to leave our homes and set out to try and find a place of safety. Just what would you carry across a dessert or sea? Probably nothing. That means leaving all your life behind.

Some 86 per cent of those people ended up in developing countries. Not rich countries, developing countries.

There are 1.3 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon. It has a population of just over 4 million.

Germany is taking tens of thousands and Angela Merkel has stood up to extreme right-wingers and said that it is the duty of her country to help.

And, do you know what, hundreds of ordinary German people are coming out to help and I am pretty sure the same would be true here.

Meanwhile, the UK government said there would be a ‘modest expansion’ in the number of Syrian refugees accepted into the UK, and a figure of 500 by the end of 2017 was cited.

Last year we took 187 people.

The government says they would rather put money into the region – and in fairness some £400m has been sent to aid refugees in countries like Jordan and Lebanon.

But I think the problem is that we have allowed a conflation of the issues around immigration and refugees.

There are issues around immigration and yes, there does need to be a re-think on how immigration works – maybe.

(However, we know that the NHS would collapse without immigration. See Jamie Oliver on C4 news saying all his businesses would close without immigrant workers. Ask any fruit farmer about finding pickers from say Liverpool or London.)

We need Cameron to have the leadership and guts to distinguish between the issues of immigration by people who want a bit better standard of living, and those who are fleeing persecution & war.

He needs to say that we, as a nation, cannot stand by and let desperate people die in Mediterranean.

He needs to say that we will be an integral part of a European response to the biggest refugee crisis since WWII.

And that involves more than sending dogs and razor wire to Calais.

(According to local sources, there were some 5,000 people in Calais trying to get into the UK in July. I am sure that the argument will be that if we let in those 5,000, another 10,00 would be hard on their heels. But 5,000 people is hardly a swarm.)

He needs to look his eurosceptic back-benchers straight in the eye and tell them to wind their necks in and search around in their copious pockets to find some human sympathy for people who have nothing, and need our help.

I’m not holding my breath on that one.


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