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This Sunday is World Refugee Day: the one day of the year when we all remember that there are essentially NO safe and lawful routes into Europe or the UK for refugees. None.
This week I’ve mingled work with chess, sea swims, bouldering and a sun-slapped dash to a subdued Wembley Stadium.
Quarter full is about the right level of busy for a football match. Public transport was becalmed, queues for the toilets were fluid, and seating was spaciously spread, with all the shouty people kept at crossbar’s length, making erudite conversation possible, if not probable. BONUS: I didn’t hear anyone booing when England took the knee.
Where do you stand?
This Sunday is World Refugee Day: the one day of the year when we all gather around the solstice firepit to remember that there are essentially NO safe and lawful routes into Europe or the UK for people fleeing terror and persecution. None.
To claim asylum in the UK, you first need to get to the UK. There are no visas for asylum seekers and the UK is an island nation with a militarised border. Ergo there are no safe or lawful routes to the UK for refugees.
After six years of what can only be described as ‘frugal’ hospitality, David Cameron’s ‘Vulnerable Persons’ scheme stuttered to its conclusion in February, having technically fulfilled the former Prime Minister’s 2014 promise to resettle 20,000 refugees in the UK.
Although we must remember and celebrate the stories behind each of those 20,000 lives, we must also bear in mind that this parsimonious figure is less than two percent of the number welcomed by Germany over the same period.
David Cameron’s largesse vanishes into the fractions when considered alongside the 5.6 million Syrians still living in precarious conditions in Turkey, Lebanon and other neighbouring countries.
What of the future? Surely today’s government couldn’t be any less welcoming, could it? In its first month of operation, the bastard son of the Vulnerable Persons scheme resettled 25 refugees—a tenth of the number ushered over our electrified border under its predecessor.
Millions, thousands, percentages, fractions, tenths: it’s easy to wallow in statistics instead of doing more to change them.
FREE QUIZ: Discover YOUR solidarity archetype!
Refugees are great for the economy. Free movement of labour could double the global economy. Refugees in particular are overwhelmingly of working age and, if they’re allowed to work for heaven’s sake, quickly pay more tax than they hypothetically absorb. Germany’s pension pot, for example, has been given a real shot in the arm with the injection of 1.1 million refugees into the workforce since 2014. Heck: this analyst argues that Germany needs half a million immigrants a year.
Did you know that Jesus was a refugee? And Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google? And Albert Einstein and Freddy Mercury? Talented, resourceful people coming to this country? Yes please! Plus we LOVE falafel, don’t we! And pizza. Ooh—and Phở. Who do you think brought all that delicious food over here, Deliveroo?
Borders don’t actually exist. We invented them not that long ago and we reserve the right to uninvent them any time, right about… NOW. They were developed as an unwieldy and temporary solution to a problem that scarcely existed—and certainly doesn’t exist today, in the frictionless Internet Age. The humans we label as ‘refugees’ or ‘asylum seekers’ or ‘immigrants’ or ‘migrants’ or ‘economic migrants’ have as much right to roam the world as we do and we have an obligation to defend their rights.
WE ARE NEXT. Maybe you’re not black, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, homosexual, transgender, disabled, neurodivergent, German, French or Huguenot. Maybe, for you, it’s always been THEM. But you can bet your last penny it’ll be YOU next. Wouldn’t we sleep easier now, knowing that, when the brownshirts come a-knocking, we have built up a solidarity network that might save us?
We have so much more than we need. The wealth of the world is so unevenly distributed that it gives me a migraine. It wasn’t fair when we were born, it won’t be fair when we die and it’s certainly not fair now. But, while we’re alive, we must do more to balance the books and give every human being as good a chance as possible to do great things. Starting with those who have lost something we didn’t even think could be lost: their country.
[[…INSERT YOUR FAVOURITE ARCHETYPE HERE…]]
And then do more to live it out.
Spell It Out
This summer, I’ll be cycling about 2,400km with Thighs of Steel, following a route that quite literally makes REFUGEES WELCOME, while fundraising £100,000 for Choose Love.
In a bold attempt to get loads of mercenary publicity for the cause, we’re also aiming to break an official Guinness World Record along the way.
You are invited to join us for 100km or more. I know of at least three readers of this humble newsletter who are committed. Together we can do more.
If you’d like to donate, then go ahead and click here (put your solidarity archetype into the comments!). Your money will go straight to grassroots organisations offering refugees the warm welcome that our whiffy government withholds.
🍲 £10 could pay for culturally appropriate food supplies (including fresh fruit and veg) for a family of 4 for a week
🚌 £50 could pay for destitution support for an asylum seeker, helping with essential costs like food, sanitary products, bus tickets and a phone top-up
⚖️ £250 could pay to run a drop-in centre for a day, providing vital, free legal support to asylum seekers
🧸 £500 could contribute to the salary of an expert caseworker supporting unaccompanied children as they start to rebuild their lives in the UK
This email was 12.34 percent funded
These words are entirely supported by lovely readers who reckon this newsletter is worth some of their hard-earned dosh. If today’s story has made your inbox a better place, then I’d be honoured if you donated to Choose Love in solidarity with refugees!
100 Days of Adventure
Some of my outdoor work was cancelled this weekend due to an outbreak of Covid in the Bracknell area. Hopefully everyone is okay and the worst that happens is we all get to enjoy a rainy weekend from the comfort of a hot bath.
If you do find yourself having a hot bath this weekend, please may I recommend you do two things:
Check yourself for ticks and tick bites and remove and treat them forthwith.
Listen to Archive on 4 with Stewart Lee. It’s a masterclass in unreliable narrators, delivered by an unreliable narrator.