Here's my recent letter to the Echo:
From the comfort of the sofa it’s impossible to feel the terror which makes whole families uproot from their homeland, relatives, businesses, careers and friends to flee for refuge to another continent. It’s hard to connect with the compulsion to hand over your life savings to a villainous sailor, so that he keeps you and your children crammed into a dark, airless hold for days aboard an unseaworthy vessel with dozens of other terrified strangers. You only have his word as assurance of your destination, and a high possibility that you or your children may not survive the journey.
If we can tell ourselves that actually, these are chancers who want to come to scrounge from our welfare state, we have neatly wriggled off the hook of our consciences. The UK is generous with overseas aid, but then it keeps the problem offshore. I think we Brits prefer it that way. However, the problem is now on our doorstep. Calais, Hungary, Serbia, a tide of broken humanity is knocking on the door of “Christian” Europe.
During the Holocaust, many generous people helped Jews escape the terror of extermination at the hand of the Nazis. As parts of Syria and Iraq quickly become uninhabitable, I believe it’s time for us to step up once again and welcome people from these nations into our communities and even our homes. We can feel threatened when someone comes to the door uninvited, even if it’s a neighbour, so this is a risk!
The BBC News website reported on 15 September:
“Some enterprising residents of the Calais migrant camp known as ‘The Jungle’ have set up businesses to support themselves. There are now more than 20 different shops and services in the camp.”
Why not choose to see the potential benefit rather than the threat; picture the possibilities, rather than imagining all of the dangers? Many of these refugees are motivated, enterprising people who have staked everything to find a safe place to restart their lives. Anyone who thinks that people from the East are lazy scroungers, has clearly not been there. Why not invite some Syrian families to live over some of the empty shops, to open businesses which will provide for them and spice up our flagging high street?
Let’s open our hearts and our town to the refugees. We can agree to budge up a bit and make some room.