The above title will be remembered by my age group as a song sung by pop band the Hollies, long ago when hair was long and time was short. It’s actually a line lifted from a famous movie called “Boystown” Starring Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney and the Bowery Boys. The boys are in an American style borstal run by a priest called Father Flanagan. Father Flanagan watches the gang of boys crossing the borstal yard and he notices that one of the boys seems to carried everywhere by another boy, the priest says to the carrier “I notice you carry him everywhere that must be tough and quite a weight” and the carrier says, and this my attempt at a New York accent “ he aint heavy fadda he’s my brudda”.
Once again we are witnessing the Tory Government and their gutter press allies foaming at the mouth as they embark on one of their now regular displays of synthetic rage, this time we are back to immigration. The population is being diverted by a show of sabre rattling from the Tories who are desperate to be seen as tough on immigrants and once again many of the UK citizens display their lack of awareness and judgement by falling for it.
Firstly the evidence does not show that the UK makes itself attractive to illegal immigrants by being a soft touch, quite the contrary in fact, that is a Rupert Murdoch style myth. The UK is in fact shirking its duty to the EU by reneging on agreements with Europe on quotas. There are Illegal Immigrants and asylum seekers scattered over many European countries and the UK is no different.
The whole issue of immigration and asylum has in fact become an inadvertent test of what kind of people we are. Do we want to behave like rats or humans?, do we want to be the kind of people who will stop an overcrowded leaking unseaworthy boat full of wretched people including the sick, pregnant, frail elderly and children and send them back across hundreds of miles of open sea to where God only knows what awaits them?. Who would like to volunteer to take this new born baby from its mother's arms and throw it in to the sea? No one eh? But, when you stick your head in the sand and say it’s nothing to do with me, that is effectively what you are doing. Look at the hungry child and see a hungry child, look at a pregnant mother and see a pregnant mother not an illegal immigrant not an asylum seeker, a hungry child and a pregnant mother, first and always, that is what you need to see, the rest is extraneous.
My grandparents were immigrants; many members of my family have immigrated to various countries. How could I deny these desperate people a chance of a better life? I think it is normal that a human being when seeing another human being in trouble should intervene in whatever way they can to help them. I find people who can ignore others who are in a desperate situation very disturbing.
There is hardly a problem that is not associated with them by people who thrive on hatred and our appalling media but the facts do not support the accusations. I look at desperate young men risking their lives to escape tyranny and I look at families of elderly grandparents pregnant women and tiny children living in squalor without food, water or medicine and it is not in the least bit complicated for me. We live in the 6th richest country in the world, they are our fellow members of the 'family of man' I repeat, it's not in the least complicated.
I say to the media and the racists among us who say “why are we sending aid to these countries when the people are leaving in droves?” The tradition and system of better off countries providing 3rd world aid is something to be proud of, it's one of the reasons that most of us are proud to call ourselves human beings. Sometimes I can’t help thinking that judging by many of the cruel comments we hear that there are a lot of people who are clearly unhappy with the outcome of World War 2. I have never met an immigrant who did not want to work. I worked for many years with Polish immigrants to this country and I have never met harder working or more generous people in my life. None of the European Countries including the UK make it easy for them and they are not the cause of any of our problems. To those who blame and scapegoat immigrants I say, Immigrants are not your enemy, the Capitalist Society which we all live in is your enemy. David Cameron and his government are not illegal immigrants, they are the ones who make the rules not the immigrants. Many of the countries that they flee from were in times gone by exploited and their forefathers persecuted by us in fact.
It is inconceivable that illegal immigrants or Asylum Seekers would choose the UK because it is more attractive and somehow more welcoming, it is anything but. It's not difficult to work out that Calais becomes their last stop in Europe when they have been hounded out of so many countries; Calais to Dover becomes the obvious geographical last chance. The Tory press distort immigration and Asylum figures shamefully. E.G. Britain took in more immigrants last year than 17 other EU countries combined they say, this is technically true but they don’t tell us that Britain took in less 32,00 than 5 other EU countries namely Germany with 202,000, Sweden 81,000, Italy 65,000. France also 65,000 and Hungary 43,000. Nor did they tell us that the 17 other countries were all comparatively small. Asylum seeker numbers are similar where Britain were 7th with 14,000 and again Germany 1st. with 48,000. Sweden 35,000, Italy 21,000, France 21,000, Switzerland 17,ooo, and the Netherland 15,ooo. Surely it’s time to stop reading the Murdoch version and read the official version and try to get the figures in to context.
I watch and listen to the people concerned, they are at the end of their tether, not getting to Dover/UK means they have to go back the way; after everything they have been through. The truth is that they would jump at the chance of settling in any of the EU countries, if France would take them or Germany or Italy etc. they would not be trying to cling on to the backs of moving lorries to come here, to suggest otherwise is risible. Imagine walking in their shoes for a while, swapping you house for their tent for a week or two, remember, we are all human beings right?.