Okay so we are currently in midst of a major migrant crises across Europe. The sheer scale of tragedy cannot be summed up better than the pictures of young Alan Kurdi lying dead on a beach in Turkey with his brother and mummy.
Surely nothing else shows the effect on ordinary people in this crises than those harrowing images, I know they will haunt me as I think about anything bad ever happening to my own children. Now I sit in a position where I do know what it is like to hold a dead child in my arms, as a matter of fact my wife and myself have had to cross that tragic bridge twice in our lives. In 2007 we lost our twin baby girls to twin to twin transfusion. Lucy I held as they withdrew life support 1 month after her birth, she fought a long hard battle and this was the day we had to say goodbye. I will always remember it was the first time since her birth I had seen her without numerous drips and tubes connected essential for her life, and now I was doing what no parent should ever have to do I was saying goodbye. With Bryonie our youngest twin she was still born 3 minutes after her sister. I remember being handed her in a blood soaked towel and crying uncontrollably in front of my mum, wife, and those working on Lucy, and trying to hide those tears from my mum. I will never forget my mum saying that I never have to hide from her anything.
Now I am not in anyway trying to draw a parallel between our tragedy and the one that has happened to the Kurdi family, because they occurred in completely different contexts, but I do know the grief that I felt when feeling as though my life had turned upside down. Now we look upon a man who reportedly had his teeth pulled out by ISIS and now has literally lost everything with the death of his family. There are no words anyone can say that will take away the grief of all the families who have lost since the conflict began, and our response has been painfully slow. Hundreds of thousands are braving treacherous conditions for the faintest glimpse of a better life in Europe.
However why do they wish to some here? Well that one is easy since the uprising against Syria’s president Assad in 2011 there has been war conflict and displacement. Various different factions fight for control and no one side seemed to be gaining any particular advantage. Then we had ISIS the Islamic State or whatever you wish to call them taking over large swathes of Iraq and Syria during I believe 2014. Now whatever your leanings it cannot be denied the regime is brutal absolutely brutal! If you do not support their particular branch of Islam then you are at least persecuted if not tortured or murdered. Lets not forget there are many different religions and cultures within the territory now controlled by this so called Caliphate including Shia, and Sunni Muslims, Christians, and Yazidi’s who I believe are a branch of Christianity but I must confess I know very little about them. Stories are rampant of the brutality suffered if you do not conform to this branch of Islam being touted, so it must be easy to even the most ignorant of people why they are fleeing.
Let us not forget however there are those who will flee in the other direction as this is what they have been searching for, a type of regime they want and long for. From the UK many Muslims mainly younger people it has to be said have traveled to ISIS in search of their interpretation of a better life.
Now for those of you who have not already guessed I am not a Muslim, I was born to White British parents from a white British background with the inevitable hint of Irish prevalent to many English families. Although I grew up in a city with a large Muslim minority (Bradford West Yorkshire) I do not pretend to understands life as a Muslim nor would I ever be so ignorant to declare just because of where I grew up I should be able to relate because I cannot. I was Christened into the Church of England and my eldest living daughter goes to a Church of England school, I do however consider myself non religious although I am a believer in god agnostic I believe is the term.
Since the pictures of Alan Kurdi were released the wealthier nations of Europe have softened in their approach to refugees and will allow many more in. I feel those fleeing war or persecution should be allowed to settle in so called safe countries because we have a humanitarian obligation to help. People would not flee and brave what they are braving unless there was something to run from, many thousands have already made it across and no doubt hundreds of thousands more are trying.
Now it has to be noted that there are many in Western countries that do not like this open door policy and do not wish to allow anymore foreigners in. Take the UK as an example many see the country as full and believe foreigners living here have ruined their towns and cities and changed large areas of these areas into ghettos. The prospect of many thousands more making their way into Britain fills some with dread and they will always be hostile. People see great swathes of Europe becoming progressively more Muslim and this is a fear that will drive some to more extreme measures such as joining more right wing parties, and maybe something more.
It is true to say since 2003 when the EU expanded hundreds of thousands of people have becoming economic migrants from old Eastern Bloc countries, to the point that there is reported to be over a million Polish born people living in the UK now. They are not the only new EU country to find the UK attractive as many from Slovakia, Bulgaria, etc have made the journey to work in the UK. This has effected a lot of areas of the UK previously not massively touched by this type of immigration before, and for some it has caused problems with the local populations. So imagine the prospect of having thousands more entering at will and settling in these areas, it is more than some can bear.
My opinion is that the UK to an extent needs an influx of younger people within it as the population ages and native born people have less children per household than before. There are skill gaps within our society that can only be plugged by foreign nationals coming in, alongside the fact there are certain jobs within our society natives are not prepared to do but foreign nationals will, low skilled menial jobs many of those natives on benefits refusing to work refuse to do. Just because someone would rather stay on the dole rather than work does not mean those jobs do not need doing trust me they do, and foreign nationals help to fill these voids.
In the end no matter the colour of our skin or the religion you follow we are all human beings with the same basic biology no matter where we live. We breath and think no matter what our nationality is and we should all have the right to a fair chance in life. However sadly on the last point this is not always the case, where you are born as well as the circumstances you are born into is something you cannot control or do anything about. Now we were born in UK where our chances are better than those born say in Syria or Eritrea of having a fair crack of the whip (although admittedly those born with a silver spoon in their mouths will always have more opportunity presented to them). We are required to go to school and our parents are prosecuted if we don’t, if we are clever we will have the opportunity to go on and have a good career and a decent life, this is not the same across the globe however.
If I was born in a village in the middle of an African desert or jungle where the aids rate is massive, and food and water hard to come by. My first task would be reaching middle childhood without contracting some debilitating disease, then making it to adulthood where I cannot read or write because school is not a law but a privilege shared by precious few.
I will admit the governments of poorer countries seem to be more interested in corruption and keeping the rich rich rather than helping the people, and to this end I agree whole heartedly with David Cameron when he says more must be done to stabalise these countries and it would help stem the flow of refugees from these areas.
The simple truth however is always the same in cases like these. It is not the governments or those in power who are suffering as a result of these conflicts, I mean in the end President Assad still sits in his luxurious palace within a secure area of Damascus with plentiful food and supplies and he cannot see or feel the reality of life for the people he is supposed to represent. Those leading the Islamic State no doubt have there own luxuries while the cities around them burn and the people die in agony wondering what they have ever done to deserve this fate. Those who start the wars and those who fund it rarely see what the consequences of their actions are in real terms because they do not have to suffer what the people suffer. Allegations of rape torture and murder without provocation are rife against ISIS and the Syrian army and if people are having to go through that as people we have 2 duties. Firstly we have a duty to help these people, and secondly we have a duty to rid the world of those who would endorse and action this against other human beings.
I ask everyone out there to ask themselves one simple question. Would you not do the same if this was happening to you? I know I would.
It makes me laugh that countries such as Hungary are taking such a hard line with these refugees when people from their own country have moved in their thousands to richer EU countries, and when countries like the UK have said they want controls on EU migration this has been met with fierce opposition from the new EU members (as well as Germany and France as usual). They have said that this is an essential principle of the EU and will not discuss the option of altering it at all, yet when genuine refugees knock on their doors they say it is the problem of the richer EU nations. A quota was proposed so all EU countries can share the burden of refugees as it were but this has been met with fierce opposition from the new EU member states, places like Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic have all rejected this proposal out of hand and refuse to partake. So when it worked in these countries citizens favor it was acceptable yet when they are expected to take responsibility collectively with other EU states they refuse.
In terms of the religious question it is true to say that some fear the amount of Muslims coming into supposed Christian Europe and what that will do to the demographics of the continent. It is true and right to point out some radicals have developed in places like the UK and areas of some cities are majority Muslim, but I also feel must help while we still can as for me life is more important than any religion. Religion although being used as the basis for ISIS and their justification for their actions to me takes second fiddle over a human life and it is about time we all realise this.
Please note all opinions contained within this blog are my own and do not reflect anyone else.
Thanks for reading.