Not all refugees are equal

Simon Pearson finds not all refugees are treated equally.

 

Not all refugees are equal. Especially if you are trying to enter Fortress England. Should we really expect anything different from the country (government) that gave us the hostile environment and Brexit?

According to a Radio 4 report this morning (8 March 2022) those brave Ukrainians who had made it to Calais to seek UK Visas, were finally met by government representatives. Better late than never I suppose. A Home Office task force, of three, who it transpires could only offer the war weary Ukrainians bottled water, packets of crisps, KitKats and directions to somewhere else, like Paris or Brussels! All from a trestle table, a government response more suited to a Sunday car boot sale than a humanitarian crisis. But at least these Ukrainian refugees were offered a warm Tory welcome, it would seem these refugees tick some of the boxes. White, European, mostly female and some with children. Unlike those refugees fleeing past conflicts in the Middle East or Africa, who predominantly male were ‘persons non grata’. No jungle for these refugees who have travelled from a European conflict, one that is still many miles away. No death from drowning in a cold North Sea. No threats from people smugglers. A welcome of sorts.

The clamour to do something, has been surprisingly loud from unexpected sections of the national media and those MPs who reside on the blue side of the house. But do not celebrate these opportunists, those of the send them back brigade, push those dinghies to France, bring out the gunboats (a la use the navy) It is worth remembering this is the welcome on offer to those with brown faces from Priti Patel and Nigel Farage’s England. For those on the Tory benches it would seem you are all right if you are white.  

All refugees are created equal. Human beings that through no fault of their own, apart from the location they find themselves in, are through the act of conflict, forced to leave all that they know. Often traumatised, destitute, lacking the support systems we take for granted. These are people who leave family and friends, work, everything they have ever known to seek a safer existence in a foreign land. This is a traumatic life event, the situation so bad at home that the only option left, to avoid certain death, is to travel far away. The false narrative of the sponging refugee (or migrant), here to take benefits and get a leg up on the housing ladder, is just that, a false narrative used by those in power to encourage resentment and hate against those that the state does not want to support. The benefits system should be used to assist all individuals that need that helping hand from the state, that is until they are able to support themselves. Nobody wants to remain on benefits, it’s a myth, one perpetuated by the right-wing press and the Tory back benches. There is dignity in work, earning for oneself, providing for your family. It just needs to be meaningful work that is fairly compensated. A day’s graft for a fair day’s wage. Not much to ask is it?

Often refugees start with nothing, and through hard work and a bit of luck, will they be able to carve out a meagre existence in a country that does not always welcome, constantly looking behind, waiting, waiting for the tap on the shoulder, and those hurtful words of ‘get back to where you came from’. We talk the talk, but all too often fail to walk the walk. Words are cheap, it is action that is required, solidarity and comradeship for all those fleeing war, persecution and fear.

Those European countries bordering Ukraine have been amazing (on the whole), Poland for one should be singled out for showing the solidarity needed in a crisis. An example the UK government should, no, must follow. All refugees are created equal, regardless of nationality, or the colour of their faces, or the language they speak. Not a political opportunity, these are human beings who deserve so much more than that. We need to build on the positive, humanitarian response offered to the Ukrainian refugees and treat all those fleeing conflict as equal, deserving of a fresh start in a place they can call home.

We say bring down those borders, welcome all refugees and end the hostile environment.


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Simon Pearson is on the Editorial Board of the Anti*Capitalist Resistance and is a Midlands-based political activist.

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