Everyone needs hope and humanity
If you were around in the 80s, you might recall the film Letter to Breshnev. It’s the type of movie for which we seem to have a talent; gritty, humorous, full of contemporary social comment. I first saw it with my parents in a dingy Watford cinema. Sitting in the gloom, watching the opening scene, where the Russian ship nudges its way through a grey dawn to the Liverpool docks, my father whispered to me, ‘That was my first view of England too’.
I was so struck by this that I have never forgotten, and it still reminds me that on one side of my heritage, my roots lie shallow in English soil and that my forebears lived in a distant, hostile homeland.
Maybe this is why I am so affected by what I see across the water in Calais, Dunkirk, Samos and elsewhere; no, not the surge of refugees out of the Middle East and across our continent, although I am massively concerned about this too, but more the practical refusal of most governments to deal with people with nowhere to belong, with nothing but what they can carry; who are not being met with any statesponsored humanity.
There are of course many individuals who are desperate to help, and who do so much.
But whilst volunteers can provide food, donations and all sorts of practical aid, they cannot facilitate the necessary end point, namely, any structured, controlled way out of these modern day ghettoes. It is not, for the vast majority of refugees, economic migration. Many were obviously engaged in their home countries’ economies, and had no reason to move, whilst those countries were functioning.
But when you know that young men must either fight for some side or other or be randomly executed, that ISIL has published a manifesto that girls are considered sexually mature from the age of nine and may be used accordingly, well, I too would pick up my children and run. Who wouldn’t?
If you crowd desperate people together in parlous conditions, if you offer them no hope or humanity, if you won’t allow them any foothold or future, why should they, longer term, be good, law-abiding citizens?
US prison camps in Iraq became networking bases for disaffected young men, some of whom went on to join violent organisations. We should be careful not to replicate this dynamic in the heart of Europe.