Thursday 20 October 2016
Refugees: can Britain fall any lower?
It has been a bad couple of years for those of us believing that we lived in a country imbued with a Christian ethos supplemented by the humanity of the Enlightenment.
In that time Germany has given a generous welcome to refugees. "We can do this" said Mrs Merkel. True she is now receiving a domestic backlash, but is still odds-on favourite to win her next election. By contrast Britain has renounced our long held reputation for hospitality to those felling hardship and persecution, and is at the back of the queue, having received but a grudging trickle of refugees.
This year's EU referendum campaign has been tawdry in the extreme and the Brexit result has been taken by many to legitimise hate crimes against an assortment of foreigners, here as EU citizens, migrant workers, asylum seekers refugees - or simply foreign.
For months the government has dragged its heels over the reception of a number of youngsters in Calais with a legal right to come to Britain becasue they have relatives here.
That the arrival earlier this week of a mere 14 of them made headline news is shameful enough.
But to our deeper shame a Conservative MP, Mr David Davies, has claimed that some of the youngsters look a bit old to his eyes, and so should have their teeth examined to determine how old they really are. Our gutter press, the Sun and the Daily Mail in particular, have not hesitated to back him up
Here is a comment from the poet and translator Georges Szirtes, who arrived here as a refugee from Hungary in 1956.
"In August 2015 I returned to Budapest again. This time, rather than people desperately fleeing , they were desperate to enter. I saw mostly young families, with nothing but the clothes on their backs, sleeping on the cold stone floors with their babies and small children.
This didn't bring back memories for me. It is not how we were treated. British people and the state were incredibly supportive - they were receiving a lot of desperate people from a range of backgrounds, who ultimately had a lot to offer the nation. I believe Britain should remember its previous generosity now."
What on earth has happened to us? It is precisely 60 years since 1956. Materially we are approximately three times richer. We have all enjoyed (or endured) universal primary and secondary education; we have a higher proportion in higher education than ever in our history; in addition to the Red Tops we are served by some high quality media, especially the BBC, now freely available on the radio and for a modest fee on television.
We need to examine very seriously what is going wrong, and why?