This Sunday is World Refugee Day: the one day of the year when we all gather around the solstice firepit to remember that there are essentially NO safe and lawful routes into Europe or the UK for people fleeing terror and persecution. None.
To claim asylum in the UK, you first need to get to the UK. There are no visas for asylum seekers and the UK is an island nation with a militarised border. Ergo there are no safe or lawful routes to the UK for refugees.
After six years of what can only be described as ‘frugal’ hospitality, David Cameron’s ‘Vulnerable Persons’ scheme stuttered to its conclusion in February, having technically fulfilled the former Prime Minister’s 2014 promise to resettle 20,000 refugees in the UK.
Although we must remember and celebrate the stories behind each of those 20,000 lives, we must also bear in mind that this parsimonious figure is less than two percent of the number welcomed by Germany over the same period.
David Cameron’s largesse vanishes into the fractions when considered alongside the 5.6 million Syrians still living in precarious conditions in Turkey, Lebanon and other neighbouring countries.
What of the future? Surely today’s government couldn’t be any less welcoming, could it? In its first month of operation, the bastard son of the Vulnerable Persons scheme resettled 25 refugees—a tenth of the number ushered over our electrified border under its predecessor.
Millions, thousands, percentages, fractions, tenths: it’s easy to wallow in statistics instead of doing more to change them.
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Refugees are great for the economy. Free movement of labour could double the global economy. Refugees in particular are overwhelmingly of working age and, if they’re allowed to work for heaven’s sake, quickly pay more tax than they hypothetically absorb. Germany’s pension pot, for example, has been given a real shot in the arm with the injection of 1.1 million refugees into the workforce since 2014. Heck: this analyst argues that Germany needs half a million immigrants a year.
Did you know that Jesus was a refugee? And Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google? And Albert Einstein and Freddy Mercury? Talented, resourceful people coming to this country? Yes please! Plus we LOVE falafel, don’t we! And pizza. Ooh—and Phở. Who do you think brought all that delicious food over here, Deliveroo?
Borders don’t actually exist. We invented them not that long ago and we reserve the right to uninvent them any time, right about… NOW. They were developed as an unwieldy and temporary solution to a problem that scarcely existed—and certainly doesn’t exist today, in the frictionless Internet Age. The humans we label as ‘refugees’ or ‘asylum seekers’ or ‘immigrants’ or ‘migrants’ or ‘economic migrants’ have as much right to roam the world as we do and we have an obligation to defend their rights.
WE ARE NEXT. Maybe you’re not black, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, homosexual, transgender, disabled, neurodivergent, German, French or Huguenot. Maybe, for you, it’s always been THEM. But you can bet your last penny it’ll be YOU next. Wouldn’t we sleep easier now, knowing that, when the brownshirts come a-knocking, we have built up a solidarity network that might save us?
We have so much more than we need. The wealth of the world is so unevenly distributed that it gives me a migraine. It wasn’t fair when we were born, it won’t be fair when we die and it’s certainly not fair now. But, while we’re alive, we must do more to balance the books and give every human being as good a chance as possible to do great things. Starting with those who have lost something we didn’t even think could be lost: their country.
[[…INSERT YOUR FAVOURITE ARCHETYPE HERE…]]
And then do more to live it out.