News today of an incident at Calais that rightfully shames the current despicable government running this country.
150 Ukrainian refugees escaped from their war-torn country. They spent days heading West, crossing through Poland and Germany into France. Their aim was to seek refuge with members of their families who were already legally resident in Britain.
But the UK Border Force post at Calais refused them entry. They were told to travel to Paris, 300 miles away, and apply for a temporary visa at the British Embassy there.
Heartless, bureaucratic, shameful in the extreme.
Poland has welcomed over 500,000 refugees.
Hungary has welcomed over 140,000 refugees.
Moldova has welcomed 98,000 refugees.
Slovakia has welcomed 73,000 refugees.
Romania has welcomed 52,000 refugees.
Even Russia has allowed in 48,000 refugees to flee the war it started.
And noble Great Britain, that renowned Monarchy and self-professed seat of Democracy will not allow in 150 people who already have somewhere to go when they get here.
How can anyone claim to be ‘Proud to be British’, faced with this international shame?
Since the final departure of the western military and diplomats from Afghanistan, what happens in that country has dropped off the news, in the main. Instead we get reports about government sleaze, the COP 26 Climate Crisis conference, and the occasional mention of the new ‘fishing war’ with France.
Fortunately, the BBC still has a very good correspondent in Afghanistan, a local man who has stayed on to send reports.
After the Taliban assumed power, they sacked almost everyone who had a job under the previous government. Most women employed in any job were told to go home, schools became institutions that taught only the Koran, and only to boys. Salaries outstanding from the previous administration have not been paid since the takeover, and assets have been frozen by the simple act of closing down banks.
This has triggered a massive refugee crisis, as tens of thousands of Afghans flee the country, most using the land route to try to get into Pakistan or Iran. Few have a valid passport, and none have the required visas. That means they are exploited by people smugglers who charge them most of the money they have left to drive them across borders in rickety old pickup trucks, crammed with refugees.
Most want to get to Turkey, where they believe they can find work. Some see Turkey as a stepping stone to other countries in Europe, their eventual goal. Meanwhile, up to 5,000 people a day, including women and children, are leaving from just one town on the border with Iran. Some are detained on the other side by the Iranian authorities, and returned to Afghanistan. All they do then is to wait their turn to try again.
And what of the Taliban? Are they trying to stop the people smugglers? Are they worried about this exodus of people from their fundamentalist utopia? Many of those leaving are well-educated, and experienced in the administration and infrastructure of running a country. You might think the Taliban would be doing its best to keep them.
Instead, they stand and watch, charging the people smugglers $10 per pickup truck for each one that passes their checkpoint.
This must be what counts as ‘Income generation’ under their rule.
I have spent a long time over the last few days, watching the rolling news coverage of the tragic events in Paris. As more details emerge about the victims, and those responsible, the news media here has latched on to one thing in particular.
One of the attackers had only recently arrived in France. He travelled through Greece and Serbia during October as part of the large number of people fleeing from the war in Syria, seeking refuge in Europe. News reporters and respected political commentators are now seizing on this, and asking the obvious question. How many others are claiming to be refugees, when their intentions are to carry out attacks in Europe?
The British Home Secretary was asked this very question on the BBC this morning. She was quick to calm any fears about those arriving in the UK, as she was sure that they had been vetted sufficiently by the UNHCR. That is hardly the point though. It was always a possibility that some militants would arrive under the cover of being refugees, and this is virtually impossible to stop. Once in Europe, they could team up with those born here, or already living here, and carry out their plans. For that matter, they could arrive posing as affluent tourists or businessmen, on scheduled airlines, or by train. Anyone determined and fanatical enough to want to do these things is always going to find a way to get into Europe.
The damage they have done to their victims is now a matter of record, and will forever be reviled. But what of the damage done to the innocent refugees, people mostly of the same religion, seeking shelter in a far-off European capital? They will now have to live under suspicion, suffering the backlash from nationals of those countries who will no longer trust them, and may even attack them in some idea of revenge. Right-wing parties and political extremists will enjoy renewed support; and the closing of borders, as well as the removal of previous travel agreements and concessions does not bode well for those refugees still hoping to find peace, and a new life.
Recent events in Europe have brought the crisis in far-off Syria to the door of Europe, and focused attention on this war like never before. Suddenly, it is not just someone else’s problem. Europe has to deal with it, and they don’t like it.
Many of the countries involved seemed to have conveniently forgotten their own recent histories. When Hungarians fled their country after the 1956 uprising, they were welcomed all over the world. Many went on to live good lives in the countries that took them in, finding respect for their opinions, a voice for their protests, alongside shelter and work too.
When the Balkan wars erupted many years later, humanitarian aid and genuine sympathy and concern provided assistance, shelter, and in some cases, new homes for those displaced or persecuted. Nobody asked about religion, ethnic origins, or whether or not those refugees were considered to be criminals in their countries of origin. They housed them, fed them, and tried to do the best to help them, as is right, in a civilised society.
So what of the current refugees, fleeing wars in Syria and Iraq, or fundamentalism in Afghanistan? They are treated like potential terrorists; fifth columnists, sent to destablise the west. They are fingerprinted, interrogated, and denied access to aid in some cases. They are kept out with razor wire, blasted with water cannons and pepper spray, or herded into overcrowded trains, that then take them somewhere they do not want to go.
Germany has done its best, taking a huge share of the number of people arriving in the EU. But what of other countries in the world? Where are North America, South America, Australia and New Zealand, for example? I hear no outcry to welcome them in these countries; often richer, larger, and better placed to deal with an influx of more people. It is seen as a European problem, and I am at a loss to understand why. I have no doubt, that if these people were Russian, North Korean, Cuban, or Chinese, asking to be given sanctuary from Communism, the doors to these other countries would open wide to them.
Perhaps it is because most of the refugees are Muslims. Maybe it is because they are fleeing war, not Communism. They are just the wrong kind of refugees, through no fault of their own.