The British media, helpfully aided by the politicians, has spent the last few weeks covering “the migrant crisis”.
We do not have a migrant crisis. We may probably have a refugee crisis. We definitely have a humanitarian crisis. But we do not have a migrant crisis. Here’s why.
When I first moved to the UK, I was a migrant. I left Africa, where my job could not support me in the way that I had been raised, and I could not find a job that could. I left a country where I could not afford to pay for both the food I needed to eat and the medication I needed to be able to work to buy the food and medication. I left a country where I could not see myself fulfilling my dreams. I had a job lined up, but it fell through, so essentially I arrived with my dreams, the money in my wallet and a suitcase. Oh, and a passport that entitled me to that medication for free (although that took three expensive months to sort out). Because I was a migrant, but technically, I was also a citizen.
And I always had a choice. Still would have, if I’d bothered to renew my passport.
But these people, the ones who climb aboard sinking boats and into suffocating lorries, who walk a thousand miles and more with their lives dragging in their wakes, they have nothing to go back to. They risk all on the slim chance of something – safety? Peace? Security? Food and drink and work? When they leave, they know they may not make it to the other side. But they do it anyway.
And we build fences to keep them out. And make up reasons why that’s okay. Like a child who throws a stone into the middle of the pond and then complains about the ripples.
But we’re not doing that. We’re keeping out the migrants. It’s easier to justify that way. It makes it seem like they’re just wandering about looking to take advantage. Call them migrants, but don’t call them people. Don’t think about the courage it takes to turn your back on your entire life, take your family and walk to a place where you know you are not wanted. Don’t think about what these people may have seen that may have forced their hands. Don’t think about how if you build your fences, you might be trapping people in a lifetime of slavery. (Because hand in hand with smuggling people is of course the human trafficking where they climb off the lorry into a lifetime of enforced servitude – sexual or otherwise.)
Don’t think about the possibility that these people may have nothing, but they have at least done something. That somehow, they are survivors – and that means something. That’s character. That’s willingness to try. That’s fantastic raw material for starting a new life.
I’m not pretending to have all the answers. In fact, I’m not pretending to have any answers. But all I’m saying is that we have to change the terms of the discussion. We’re asking the wrong questions.
I shall leave you with two quotes (and they’re not even from the Bible).
“ I believe it is peace for our time”.
– Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, 30 September 1938.
(That worked. Not)
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
― Edmund Burke