The Coronavirus Diaries, 8th March 2023, Small Boats

Until eighteen months ago, I had a small boat. It was twenty five foot long, nine feet wide. There was a roof, a galley, a bathroom, a cabin, heating if needed. I should not have wanted to cross the Channel in it. Yet people risk their lives crossing, or failing to cross the Channel in rubber dinghies. They aren’t gung-ho Dangerous Sports Club types, people who get high on risk and death defying adventure. They are people seeking refuge from intolerable conditions in their home countries. People whose lives are at risk because their politics do not match those of the regime in charge, people whose lives are at risk because they cannot make enough money to live on. I’d call them ordinary, but their situation makes them extraordinary, the risks they take, pushed by circumstances beyond their control, make them extraordinary.

Yet here in my country these people, refugees, are vilified as queue jumpers, illegal immigrants, people wanting to take advantage of our generosity. Generosity is the last thing they are shown. One of the most chilling interviews I saw the other evening on the news was a couple in late middle age saying of course they felt sorry for people fleeing war and worse, but they didn’t think their taxes should be spent on helping them, that the country couldn’t afford to help them. These aren’t the exact words, I was too sickened to write them down when I heard them. What sort of accounting system says we can have safety and shelter but you can’t?

Some of the people who protest – yes there are people who protest against those seeking asylum – say there are too many coming from other cultures, especially moslem cultures, and that we are being swamped. Culture is fluid, culture evolves, culture is enriched by new influences and encounters. Look at British cuisine. there was a post on Instagram by someone giving advice to visitors to London from abroad. Don’t just eat British food, she said, fish and chips is great, but you can eat dishes from around the world in London. That is British food. Thos dishes are prepared and popularised by people from other cultures who have settled here. Curry has long replaced roast beef and Yorkshire pudding as the most ubiquitous British meal. Not that our dishes always taste like those from the countries where they originated. They too have evolved, been adapted to local tastes, to local produce. If you are a celebrity chef it’s called giving it a twist. Beware any restaurant that says it is serving authentic food from somewhere.

This is a Christian country say others, displaying a singular lack of Christian love for their neighbours as they spend their Sundays shopping rather than in a church which is probably gothic in style, meaning it’s influenced by Islamic architecture.

So yes, stop the small boats and the people smugglers who exploit refugees’ desperation. Make legal passage easier, welcome refugees and allow them to work, and most of all stop the horrible, divisive rhetoric which pitches people against each other. The world is not so big. The problems we face are better resolved if we join forces to resolve them together. So what if your neighbour speaks a language you do not know, wears clothes you find unfamiliar, smile. As Jo Cox said, we have more in common than that which divides us, and as someone else said, united we stand divided we fall. Look at who is dividing us and see how they do it to gain power for themselves, not for the greater good. #refugeeswelcome


4 thoughts on “The Coronavirus Diaries, 8th March 2023, Small Boats

    • Why there should be an attempt to gag someone speaking out in support of human rights indicates this government is politicising human rights, which are supposed to be inalienable, and why the U.K. government was a force in establishing them.

    • I used to be a huge fan of Emily Maitlis and John Sopel’s political podcasts when they were with the BBC. I realised today they have the newsagents podcasts which are again, informed, funny, thought provoking. I have found my new listening!

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