The “Not on our Doorstep” Delusion

This week I’ve been feeling particularly depressed about the migrant situation in Calais (and, as an aside, also furious with David Cameron for referring to human beings in crisis as ‘swarms’ and expressing his condolences not to the families of the displaced people who have died trying to enter Britain, but rather to British holidaymakers for the inconvenience to their travel plans – disgusting).

The migrant situation is bleak indeed, and with the current political climate and rise of groups like IS it’s hard to see how things will get any better – more likely they will get worse. It makes my blood boil when people say those attempting to enter the UK should just ‘go back to where they came from’. In many cases they would see that as a fate worse than death, and in many cases it would be.

It is also infuriating to hear the argument that migrants should go elsewhere in Europe – what this ignorant ‘not on our doorstep’ stance fails to recognise is that other European countries accept far more displaced people than attempt to enter Britain each year: according to this article in the Huffington Post, Germany, for example, takes over 100,000 asylum seekers compared to Britain’s paltry 20,000, and Turkey is hosting the largest number of refugees in the world – at least 1.59 million people according to the UNHCR. Why shouldn’t Britain help?

I’m no expert on humanitarian crises, but as I see it the only way the current situation can be resolved is to tackle the problem at the source – through a coordinated and sustained attack against the groups that are oppressing and killing those same innocent civilians who are being forced in their thousands to flee, so that one day their homeland may be a place they can safely return to.

I’m also no advocate of war, but let’s not forget the UK government is in no small part to blame for the rise of groups like Al Qaeda and IS – instead of building fences to keep their many victims out of the UK, therefore, would it not be more responsible to take action and stamp them out?

The fundamental truth that many are conveniently choosing to gloss over is this: Most of the migrants entering Europe are doing so not to ‘seek a better life’, but to escape from one that was a living hell. These people are not cockroaches, scattering amongst our ‘civilised’ society to wreak havoc and threaten all that we hold dear. These people are PEOPLE. And, no matter how much you want to make out otherwise, they have the same right to a fear and oppression-free life as you or me.

calais-migrant-child

Too Little, Too Late? (how our indifference could have sealed our fate)

I’m feeling deeply troubled by the current situation in West Africa. Up to now I’ve done my best to avoid the conjecture and hysteria surrounding the outbreak of Ebola, but as the crisis deepens each day it is becoming harder for the eyes of the western world to ignore. The politicians in charge of the international aid purse strings have been accused of cutting aid budgets to Liberia at exactly the time they needed to be ramped up. Whether or not this is true, it does seem undeniable that the international response to the Ebola epidemic has been too slow off the mark. Experts have warned that for every 10 people currently infected a further 17 will contract the virus. And it’s only now in the face of indisputable evidence that the situation is worsening daily that a summit on how to tackle the spread of the virus was held in London today.

But it’s not just the UK who have been too slow to respond. Today it’s also been revealed an American citizen who returned from Liberia and who had come into direct contact with an infected pregnant woman – carrying her in his arms to a treatment centre where she ultimately died, no less – was turned away from hospital on his home soil when he initially presented symptoms. As a result the authorities are frantically trying to contact 100 people with whom he subsequently came into contact with, and his closest family members are in quarantine lest they too develop symptoms.

This is a humanitarian crisis, and one that could affect us all. Experts believe there is a 90 day window to halt the spread of Ebola, after which the number of infected people could rise from the current rough (and probably vastly underreported) 6,500 to 1.5 million by January. And if the authorities and aid agencies can’t cope now, what hope will they have then?

I can’t pretend I don’t have selfish concerns about the spread of Ebola across the world, but what upsets me even more than the thought of contracting the virus myself (and, God forbid, my loved ones also contracting it), is that up to now the western world has turned the other cheek. It’s disgusting that the lives of our fellow human beings across the world are held in such little regard until the moment that the scales of fortune upturn and the threat looks to be ours as well as theirs. Will Pooley, the British doctor who survived Ebola, has described the cases of a four year old boy and his two year old sister, who died from the virus within 24 hours of each other in ‘squalid’ conditions, lying naked in pools of their own blood and diarrhea. In Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, at this very moment, cases such as these are commonplace. Whole families, entire communities are being wiped out in agonising pain and it is simply not acceptable that the western world has for so long been looking on and twiddling its thumbs.

If the doomsayers are right and this virus does spiral out of control, the saddest thing is this: It will be the very politicians who got us into this situation that will have spaces in the quarantine bunkers whilst the rest of us are wiped out. And you can bet they’ll put one hell of a spin on the ‘truth’ they tell their future generations after they emerge, blinking, into the post-apocalyptic light.

th (2)