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.