This week I've had the pleasure of entertaining a couple of friends from Australia. They arrived on Monday and the younger one, who many years ago was a student in a school where I taught, was extremely indignant. In Kings Cross station she had picked up a free newspaper and was horrified to see the headline: " 'Marauding migrants' threaten our standard of living, says Hammond. "
"Anyone in public office in Australia who said something like that would be forced to resign" she said.
That day's Guardian also ran the same headline. Philip Hammond is, of course, our Foreign Secretary.
In order to assure her that not all we Brits are so crass I was able to show her a copy of Giles Fraser's article from last Saturday, in which I particularly like his final paragraph, beginning:
Thousands of people enter this county every year without papers or a little red passport. They are called babies. And they are a drain on the economy for at least 20 years.
To put the matter into even greater perspective:
- two thirds of all migrants to Europe are legitimate refugees fleeing from persecution or violence in dysfunctional countries such as Syria, Eritrea and Afghanistan rather than simply economic migrants seeking a better life (though that in itself is to be admired rather than resented);
- only 1% of recent migrants to Europe are at Calais: most are in Italy and Greece;
- most Syrian refugees (about 1.2 million) are in Lebanon (population 4.5 million).
(For more fascinating facts see earlier post and http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/aug/10/10-truths-about-europes-refugee-crisis)
In his article Fraser commended the BBC for planning to show part of next Sunday's BBC1 religious programme "Songs of Praise" from the church the refugees and migrants have built in the "Jungle" at Calais. This has outraged the Daily Express, which ran a full front page headline demanding why the BBC was wasting our licence fee in this manner. I believe the Sun did something similar, though I haven't actually seen it.
It really is getting quite difficult to be proud of Britain and our contribution to civilising influence in the world.