Friday, 14 August 2020

Reality Check: Refugees Are Not getting a Mansion and Sports Car

Empathy is always a good starting point in any situation. Empathy does not mean you must side with someone, just simply put yourself in their shoes, explore their range of possible motives and better understand their situation. If you do, more often than not, you will find yourself sympathising with that person a little more than you did. Most people have good intentions most of the time, even if our judgement sometimes fails us. We are human after all.

Much has been made recently of refugees crossing the English Channel in dinghies, almost as though it's a new phenomenon and not something that's been going on for 20 years or more. The sudden outburst of hysteria has been accompanied by claims to know the motives of these people who come from a diverse range of backgrounds from dirt poor to middle class, who come from various continents, fleeing civil war and terrorism and oppression, so much of which Britain's had a hand in.

We in Britain know who these people are, apparently. They're economic migrants! Invaders! Terrorists! They want to steal our jobs and live in mansions and claim our benefits! They want to destroy our way of life! Every single one of them! Sounds ridiculous when you say it aloud, doesn't it?

Now I would ask myself what would compel people to take such a perilous sea journey, crammed into a tiny dinghy which could easily capsize in rough seas. I can imagine many reasons for taking such a risk and claiming the £37.75 weekly refugee allowance is not among them!

Let's look at the situation in Syria, for example - a previously stable country which we decided to bomb, plunging it into one of the world's messiest civil wars and creating ISIS in the process. Yes, our intervention made ISIS possible - and now they have our weapons.

"Ah, but fighting age men should stay and fight!" conservatives roar.

Fight for who exactly? Last I read, there were at least 11 different sides in the Syrian conflict, all infiltrated by ISIS, all fighting with advanced weaponry, and all committing pretty horrible acts. How on Earth would you pick a side? And what is with the conservative idea of demanding people fight to the death anyway?

I wouldn't want to fight someone else's conflict just because we happened to be born on the same piece of land. If I was Syrian and trapped in the horror created by the west to oust Assad, does that mean I'd be expected to fight to the death for bad guys? Does it mean I'd have to leave my helpless family at home, waiting for the murderous hordes to arrive while I was killing people elsewhere?
Why would my family and I not deserve safety? Remember, those Syrians are just as human and just as innocent as my family, and they are trapped in an impossible situation.
So Syrian families do the natural thing, something they've every right to do under international law, under a treaty which Britain signed - they flee. And when they flee, they do the next perfectly natural thing - they look around to see which reachable country is suitable, which country they believe is most likely to provide a safe haven, job opportunities, which country may contain friends or family. Perhaps they already speak the language or have job qualifications which we're looking for.

And so they head to the most suitable destination, broke, terrified and facing many unknowns. All they ask for upon arrival is we hear them out and give them a fair chance to rebuild. And what happens when a tiny handful of these refugees reach our shores? They're told they've entered the country illegally, even though the 1951 Refugee Convention clearly states this cannot be held against them. They're told they should've stopped at the nearest safe country as though such a requirement exists under law (it doesn't), as though neighbouring countries should take all refugees and Britain should take none, as though refugees should get no say in where they rebuild their lives. We treat refugees like vermin and say we can't take them all, when in truth we take a tiny fraction and want to take none at all.

There are 26 million refugees in the world and Britain has taken just 120,000. That hardly counts as taking them all, does it? Half of refugees are under the age of 18. We are sneering at and vilifying children. Meanwhile, Turkey has taken over 1.5 million refugees, despite being significantly poorer than Britain. And don't give me that nonsense about Britain being full - our population density is 49th in the world. We have plenty of room, we just don't want to help black and brown people. Clearly, we see them as less deserving of sympathy.
But that's not fair! We care about genuine refugees, but these are economic migrants coming here illegally! All of them! We should blast these invaders out of the water! Real refugees would fly in by aeroplane!
Just listen to yourselves. There is nothing, I repeat nothing illegal about claiming asylum. Refugees aren't taking comfy trips to an airport because they do not have that option. They're scrambling from danger any way they can, even by dinghy. Often they have children with them and you bastards would blast them out the water? What is wrong with you?

Now I don't doubt for one second that some who reach these shores are not genuine refugees. That's why we have an asylum application process. You don't decide whether a refugee is genuine before they've even reached your shores, before you've even spoken to them. You certainly don't blast them out the water, you monsters. And no, your demand that France keeps every refugee is not a reasonable one and it has no legal basis. Don't believe me, speak to an immigration lawyer.

Genuine refugees have every right to be in Britain and they are not a financial burden. To put things in perspective, it costs Britain £790,000 to launch a single Stormshadow missile. That money can cover the weekly living allowance of 20,927 refugees. If we can afford to bomb their countries, we can bloody well afford to feed them.
Just imagine if we got as mad about the cost of a Stormshadow missile as the cost of feeding a desperate person.
The people who pre-judge refugees have invariably never met one, certainly never had a conversation with one or spent meaningful time around one. When you do this, you find the same thing every time: polite, friendly, charming people who are so relieved to be safe and just want to contribute to our society. They desperately want to work but are told they can't until their asylum application is processed. They are traumatised and terrified of returning home, but they are also incredibly resilient, having gone to enormous lengths and shown enormous courage to get here. And it's to our shame we treat them so horribly.
It's worth remembering Albert Einstein was a refugee. And Anne Frank had her application rejected.
Refugees are not living in mansions, they are not jumping any queues, they are not getting free sports cars, and they are certainly not getting the most generous benefits in the world. Our weekly refugee allowance of £37.75 is half the £77.50 they would get in France. And once a refugee has been given leave to remain, even if they do end up claiming Universal Credit, our benefits system is actually one of the least generous in Europe. 

Have you ever claimed Universal Credit? I have and it was shit.

In short, no one is coming here to live off the tax payer. It's just not happening. On the contrary, our migrant population has higher rates of employment, pays more tax and commits less crime. These people are coming here and they are... becoming good citizens actually.

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email: r.d.hale@outlook.com