At the weekend I caught up with the controversial edition of Songs of Praise from Calais which included conversations with migrants determined to get into Britain. The programme reminded me that these were real human beings. It all seems very sad and unacceptable at so many levels. Here I am in a comfortable corner of England’s green and pleasant land, while not so far away life is relentlessly crap for these poor souls.
A common approach (which the programme may have challenged) is to 1. identify the people we want to get rid of, 2. paint them as black as possible and then 3. crack down on them. Hopefully if we have spun it right we will get a round of applause and re-elected. Politics of fear.
The government’s apparent strategy of making life hell for unwanted people seems mediaeval. I can get that an open gate would lead to chaos but allowing people to fall into abject poverty as a deterrent doesn’t seem right, does it? It seems to indicate an absence of a compassionate strategy, and not for the first time. These people are not coming here as “tourists” they are people in desperate circumstances. They are labelled as “marauders” and “illegals” who are intentionally taking advantage of the system. The word illegal is used as though it is a fundamental part of their identity. True outcasts.
People who beak rules in desparation are unlikely to go away. Some might take the view that if the law comes into conflict with our basic human (or Christian) values then of course chaos is going to ensue. We either have to challenge the policy or adjust our values. This is where we are.
No matter what the right or wrong I can’t see that allowing refugees and asylum seekers to fall into deprivation is an appropriate form of control. More broadly this kind of strategy could lead to a division between those whom we consider respectable citizens and the outcasts who inhabit dark ghettos. We risk creating Folk Devils from which we must protect ourselves – islands within islands under siege. Once we use labels and repression to control people we are setting up division and encouraging conflict.
The “marauding” migrants whether legal or not are being forced to live as outsiders not embraced as brothers or sisters in need.