Refugees – Sinking to a new low

This is my first blog of 2019, in fact, I haven’t written a blog for months and what follows started out as a Twitter thread, the first one of those I have ever written.

What brought this on was the awful comments on Twitter about the refugees crossing the English Channel with some people calling for their boats to be sunk along with their cargo of men, women and children. It’s also in response to the British government’s posturing and the reaction by Home Secretary Sajid Javid who everyone knows is using a few dozen unfortunates to boost his career and shore up Theresa May’s corrupt government ahead of the crucial Brexit vote in Parliament. British politics and politicians have never been mired in such filth as they are now. The two largest political parties grapple in an ideological race to the bottom, while stripping the people of a once great country of their rights and freedoms. All of this is, of course, is grist to the mill for the Tory press: Sun, Mail and Telegraph, whose incendiary, divisive reporting of a few desperate people risking their lives to cross one of the most dangerous waterways in the world, keeps that all-important xenophobia bubbling nicely.

And so back to the reason I wrote this blog.

I was there when they brought an empty refugee boat to a dock in the Caribbean during the days when boats were crossing from West Africa to the Canaries. The occupants of this boat never made it. When it was recovered, the boat was knee-deep in water. The engine cover was off and the engine broken. Rudimentary tools were scattered around the bilge: hammers, chisels, screwdrivers, and the carburetor had been stripped down. It was obvious that a desperate attempt to repair the motor had failed.

Children’s shoes and baby clothes, adult clothes, men’s and women’s, sloshed about in the filthy water. Two 45 gallon fuel drums, one empty, were lashed to a thwart. Containers that once held fresh water now held nothing.

It was one of the saddest and most heartbreaking sights I have ever seen.

Perhaps they were driven mad with thirst, or starved to death. Who knows what horrors the boat’s occupants endured towards the end as they drifted west across the wild North Atlantic Ocean.

An inquiry of sorts was held but it was assumed the inhabitants of the boat had been taken by the sea and after a few inches in a local newspaper they were quickly forgotten.

When I read about people saying they should sink the refuge boats in the Channel, or shoot the people as they come ashore, I wish I could make them look down into that empty boat alongside that Caribbean dock.

Perhaps they would pick up a pink baby shoe and laugh, or perhaps the reality of what those people suffered would sink in and, like me, they would weep.

I’m saddened that British politicians are using the plight of refugees for political gain and I’m ashamed that so many of my own countrymen are willing to turn their backs on those seeking sanctuary.

My hope for 2019 is that the world will be a kinder place.

… And then I look at leaders like May and Trump, and thank my lucky stars that at least for now, I’m not a refugee.

 

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What a lot of Berk(a)s

I love France, in fact I live in France although not the Mainland part. France is a republic, which I like, French people will not put up with bullshit (vive la Revolution) and are usually very fair, so the burkini ban came as a shock.

I don’t want to get into the whole Muslim migrant/terrorism thing. Like most people, I think migrants, especially those fleeing repressive regimes, should do their utmost to assimilate into the fabric of the country in which they have sought refuge and have been welcomed (that’s why I wear a beret).

What stirred me up this week was the awful photos of French police forcibly removing articles of clothing from a Muslim woman in front of her children, while a crowd clapped and cheered on a beach in Nice after the Mayor of the town decreed such dress as she was wearing illegal.

Riviera Nice, the quintessential liberal resort that just about invented topless sunbathing (and more). Nice used women and their bare breasts to promote their resort world-wide and made a fortune while doing it. When I was hitchhiking around Europe back in the 70s, myself and all the other red-blooded backpacking scruffs couldn’t get to Nice fast enough to feast our eyes on all those gorgeous breasts, and we weren’t disappointed!

It was marvelous. Here were liberated women exercising their freedom, something that all women should have, freedom and freedom of choice.

Then a councilor noticed that not all the women were bearing their breasts, and the Nice Town Hall passed a law that all female sunbathers must be naked from the waist up. To administer the new rules they sent batten-wielding male police officers to the beach to forcibly remove all bikini tops from the women who refused to do it voluntarily.

Which, of course didn’t really happen, but brings us back to the humiliation of the Muslim woman who was forced to remove articles of clothing by armed men in uniforms.

It’s possible that the woman’s husband insists she dress the way she does. It’s also possible that she dresses that way by choice.  What armed police did in partially undressing this woman is tantamount to criminal assault, even sexual assault, and it puts the whole of what France stands for to shame.

The Mayor of Nice should resign.

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Perhaps in France, everyone should be forced to wear a beret!