Refugee crisis

(Brian Milne) #1

The pictures of three year old Aylan's body on a Turkish beach have hit people's emotions around the world. Politicians are listening to the public reaction and acting. An effort is being made to play down the difference between 'economic migrants' and genuine refugees and asylum seekers by the media that has been damning all migrants as though they were all 'scroungers' until now. There are umpteen petitions and appeals at the moment. Some countries have reacted quickly, France among them. It will be up to mairies throughout France to come up with local schemes. That does not mean there is no need for active input from individuals.

Many of us have some kind of resource we can offer. In our case this happens to be a household in which there is a degree of expertise in working with children in the most difficult circumstances anywhere in the world. What we do not have is anywhere to offer any of them shelter, especially with ongoing work on the house and forthcoming work. Like anybody else, if we donate money or material things such as clothes, then we will do that at our discretion along with many other people. If our services as people who can work with people in emergencies are required then we will not hesitate which extends naturally to children first but also to families. That is what we can do, but many of you can also do something. What that is or might be is up to you and very soon will be guided by your community through the maire.

Compassion is always free but aid always requires effort, an open mind and generosity. Not only money donates but generosity of spirit. It also requires a bit of help getting the UK government to stop hesitating for those who are UK citizens and especially those who have kept electoral rights or spend a lot of time living there.

So please everybody, give it some thought, search your hearts and minds but avoid being simply carried along by the tide of emotion and then if you can play even the tiniest role in this do it. This is one very small planet, we should learn to share it and perhaps this is just one of those moments in history where some of the lessons we should already have learned will stick.

(Catharine Higginson) #2

@ Helen - yes please do start a separate thread and we will promote it! x

(Simon Armstrong) #3

What a great idea Helen!! Maybe you should start this as a new topic or even an ad?

(Peter Bird) #4

Confolens, in Charente has just taken in 27 migrants. They will be housed temporarily in the old hospital buildings which closed earlier this year following the opening of the new hospital. It is stressed by the Mairie that the migrants will not be locked in or restricted in any way and that they will enjoy free movement. This was in reply to certain criticisms suggesting the hospital was some kind of 'holding camp'. The migrants will be slowly integrated into society where it's hoped they will eventually be able to lead 'normal' lives....

(Helen Laziou Roger) #5

May I add to this thread - I represent the Socks For Refugees project set up 2 weeks ago by a lovely lady called Debbie. Our aim is to get those feet dry both here in France and also on the frontline. So far over 1200 pairs sent to the Greek Islands and more going out this week.

We accept money donations via paypal to bulk order socks, individual pairs of socks sent with a message to our sock Central (details on what to do here ) or even your odd socks (which I pair up with other similar odd socks to send to the frontline) sent to me at 61 rue de l'église 50660 QUETTREVILLE SUR SIENNE

(Catherine Julia Stock) #6

Just discovered this thread. I have a cottage in the Lot, seven kilometres from Rocamadour, that is currently empty. I usually count on the rental income from Easter onwards, but I could definitely house a small family until then. I would need occupants to cover the utilities however. My phone is 0565336940. Thanks.

(Mike Kearney) #7

You are using politicians language. I did not see an organized attack with explosive missiles.
You should also remember that the media always go for the most shocking images and have even been guilty of provoking situations to get what they want. Don't believe everything you see. The North Koreans have wonderful movies contrasting their workers' paradise with the squalor and degradation of the West. All genuine footage!
Most of the Word's troubles are due to failures in communication, which seems to be what happened here. My observations seem to suggest that officers in soft caps do a better job of crowd control than those in riot gear.

(Mark Rimmer) #8

Did you not see the video, Mike? The crowd, consisting mainly of young fit men, kicked open the border gate then bombarded the police with missiles while trying to break down the second gate! Children & people in fragile health? Human shields? I really think you should look again without those rose coloured spectacles! I worry about the kind of society that says we should put up with violent, agressive thugs who feel that they can do what the hell they like to achieve their aims. The pepper spray only came into use when these thugs were about to force their way across the border. The Hungarians have every right to stop illegal entry. A country's border is sacred & all countries defend theirs. You only have to look at the TV programmes on Border Security (USA, Canada, UK, Australia etc) to see how, but they are only dealing with individuals.

(Mike Kearney) #9

I don't think we disagree about whose border it is.
But does that mean it is OK to use pepper spray and water cannon against children and people in fragile health? And then to come up with slimy self-justification that the migrants had only themselves to blame because they were using the children as human shields? Last time I heard that excuse, it was from the lips of the evil Netanyahu.
I don't want to live in that kind of society. I worry about the way we are moving towards "Fortress Europe."

(Brian Milne) #10

That, Mike, is precisely one of the points. Extend it and people know history, all about the consequences of European history but do not look at where it really began and how it turns out in the end. The Hungarian uprising has been expunged from people's minds, ditto several other events such as here Algeria being whitewashed over or several very nasty events that precipitated independence from the UK faster than it might otherwise have been. There are too many examples. Thanks for reminding us of that example.

Mark. The UN is celebrating 70 years at present. The founding principles are as sound as ever. What has happened is that the membership, all but two of the world's 196 nations, has not continued the necessary dialogue that followed 1945. In December, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will be 67, just a few weeks younger than me. It has let slip. Largely it is because it has be ridden over slipshod by most countries and also because it was never elevated to convention status. Neither a charter or declaration are at all binding, but a convention is. That is a failure of the General Assembly. The GA has also failed to keep a tight rein on the separate parts of the UN, its agencies. I have worked for some but had close liaison with others during jobs, so know the way it works pretty well. The difference is that I have never been an employee of a UN agency so can speak out unlike employees. Look at this for a nasty example of what it is like to be one:

I know the content is true but to a point I would say that it can be worse than this report says. Again, it is the membership allowing it to go on. What we need is visionary leadership like Dag Hammarskjöld, who it highly like was bumped off with the 1961 plane crash. Ex-US President Harry Truman said that Hammarskjöld “was on the point of getting something done when they killed him. Notice that I said ‘when they killed him’.” So, since then leadership has been a political pawn, made worst by the Waldheim cover up about his possible war crimes. Kofi Annan, who I met a couple of times, tried hard to get some structure back, Ban Ki-moon has let it slip back. The executive needs to keep a better overview of the agencies. They drive me nuts competing against each other. My OH and I were driven to despair by one this year, a child refugees from Syria job, where one agency influenced the other to a disgraceful extent with the best known NGO kowtowing and the principles on which all three are supposed to work that we used largely dismissed. Since then their report was a nothing to say bit of fluff that is already binned because of the increase in numbers. The agencies need to have an Executive Director who is part of a board of those EDs that are under the executive committee of the UN with the Secretary general chairing it. They need strict guidelines and rules to make them sing from the same sheet in their respective roles instead of being rivals. Governments know all of that so that they have not been meeting the funding commitments they make. The UK has only given 37% of what was allocated for UNHCR, who are near bankrupt. At present they are the most important agency in the field. Likewise, most countries have not coughed up to WHO thus the AIDS programme has been vastly reduced. It is no longer news but worldwide the incidence is still growing, what we hear about is the retro-viral drugs that keep HIV sufferers stable and healthy for virtually normal life expectancy in the west. I could go on but it will depress everybody.

None of that is helping right now. As and when I shall continue to both work for the UN and the generally equally awful NGOs but will also retain my independent ability to tell people what a mess they are. I am very, very sympathetic with people who work in that sector, generally overworked, underpaid, badly treated and yet everybody thinks that because the chief executives sometimes earn football star salaries that they all do. Yet by one means or another we both pay for it all and it represents us all, including all those displaced people wherever they may be.

I have no problem with your concerns Mark, it happens to be that I have another world view and having been part of that world for so long instead of becoming quieter and less interested in saying anything about it, I have become far more radical and not at all afraid to speak out. In this field I do not deal with rumours and news stories but what is happening on the ground. It is not a good picture at present. As for the idea of getting rid of the UN and replacing it, well that is a hiding to nothing. Many nations would either set up a rival to whatever was set up or simply not bother. We have something where the entire world can have representation at meetings that include all countries. It has to be made and seen to work, then we would perhaps have better solutions to issues that are escalating at present and would have prevented the so-called refugee crisis happening in the first place.

As for your worry about culture, well there is no solution. Here in France people from this area and the centre are not remotely similar, as for Bretagne or Alsaß. It is deeply entrenched in society, yet in reality difference should be accepted and celebrated rather than cause contention and violence.

(Peter Bird) #11

Fascinating document Mark. Isn't it amazing how the 'world' clubbed together to take their share of refugees. Sadly thoses altruistic halcyon days are over..........

(Mark Rimmer) #12

It's Hungary's border, Mike, not an enclosure to keep refugees IN. Hungary, like the UK & now Croatia, is merely protecting its borders which it has every right to do. Just because refugees want to travel that way does not give them the right to do so. If they wish to go where they want then they will have to meet that country's entry requirements as indeed I would have to. Why should countries have to change the rules because a horde want to force their way in to a country which has already tried to do the right thing? Migrants are not blessed with a free pass to anywhere whatever they may think they have.

200,000 refugees left Hungary after the uprising. Here is a Nato document dated 17th April 1957 concerning Hungarian refugees. It makes interesting reading & bears comparison with the situation today.

(Mike Kearney) #13


I find it hard not to see razor wire as an act of aggression. For desperate refugees, the prospect of being herded into camps and enclosures must be terrifying, when all they want to do is travel on to their intended destination. So a few of them forget their manners and start lobbing stones as a way of saying "Hey, take notice of our wishes, we are people, not cattle!" But these are frightened refugees, not Russians in their battle tanks rolling into Budapest.
After the 1956 uprising, Many Hungarians fled to the free world, where they were welcomed.
My wife was one of those who volunteered to help teach them French. She thinks they have forgotten their own history too easily, though she doesn't express it in such polite terms!

(Mark Rimmer) #14

It's the failure, or lack of will, for many to make allowances for differences in culture that has me worried. When migrants start to attack Hungarian police there will be retaliation. I thought that the police reacted with considerable restraint. Similar incidents are happening in other countries too where the frustration of migrants is showing itself. I do not put this all down to religous differences but there are people out there who are which is where the whole thing becomes more sinister.

Surely common sense should dictate that to be made welcome in a new place you should be on your best behaviour - this applies to children starting a new school right through to staying at a friend's house. It should not depend on anything other than courtesy. Some migrants have failed to take this on board & it is not hard for those wth an agenda to use this. This, taken to a higher level, could divide Europe even more than it is already.

Why is the UN so useless today? How can that be corrected?

(Barbara Deane) #15

Me too I will keep hoping!

(Brian Milne) #16

Barbara, I wish we could. However, I would like it to be positive, happy news that includes the wars ending, people able to go home and friendship between them and everybody else. I suspect I shall keep on wishing for my remaining bit of time in this world.

(Barbara Deane) #17

Well there we are.

What can anyone add to that!

(Brian Milne) #18

Mark, whether people agree or not there are two points about what you are saying. Firstly, much of what you say is in fact fairly correct in most ways. However, that does not work for a number of reasons. Of the refugees on the move worldwide roughly half, a bit over perhaps, are Moslems. It is not only Syrians after all, but even then many of the people there are Christians, Zidawi, Dom Romani, Kurdish non-Islamic people and then repeat that for people leaving Syria who are Iraqi and from the same religious minorities, then Eritrea where they are both with more Christians than Moslems on the move. Even some of the Afghanis are from the Christian minority. So, looking at it in terms of beliefs it is more complicated than simply saying nationalities then assuming that they must be religiously homogeneous. Logistically, you are very close to the reality. Between the two it is dangerous ground to tread. Some politicians across Europe have already said we should either only take Christian refugees or give them priority over others. That is morally thin ice and anyway, there is no certainty that by only accepting them that the outcome would be any better.

The second point is that as you have your view, here in the minority, throughout society many people are actively demonstrating willingness to take in people, not necessarily personally but saying their countries should. The flip side of that coin in that much of the voice against is being led by sometime rather extreme nationalist groups who want nobody and are even advocating mass deportation of Moslems. That is ignoring the fact that there are up to fourth generation people, three of those generations having the nationality of that country, who they include. Several of the same groups are amplifying increasing anti-Semitism, which is why it is making the news often here in France although in the UK it is as bad but largely unreported. In Norway and Finland, the two respective main 'nationalist' groups are also anti-Sami, that is to say Lapps or Laplanders if that is how you know them. The Sami are an indigenous Finno-Ugric people who inhabit the Arctic area of Sápmi, which is to say the far north of Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Kola Peninsula of Russia, and parts of the border area between south and middle Sweden and Norway. My point is not to introduce another issue entirely but to raise a point about that which has some ugly implications. Those people are not Nordic, not what we consider 'European', but are closer to Siberian groups, the Innuits, Inupiats and even the North American indigenous groups. They are mainly Christians but a good number still practice their own religion which is animistic. They are simply not of Nordic- Germanic origin. It is one of the indicators being used with the other openly expressed prejudices to show how the kind of ethno-nationalism that built up in the wake of WW1 is being revived. I am certain you are not part of that, but those people are preying on opinions such as yours and somehow it is without doubt feeding back into mass culture. That is dangerous, we have been there before in the 1920s and 30s with the 40s being the stuff of nightmares.

Look back to the last page and what I answered to Doreen. We have about 35 conflicts in the world at present, nasty regimes and to a point things getting worst. Just this week the idea of civil war in eastern Turkey has been news. The Turks have had it in for Kurds way back during the Ottoman Empire. Because one particular Kurdish political movement in the east of Turkey has been in conflict with modern Turkey since its foundation it is not about people moving into the country but with those whose ancestors have always been there. The Turks have not only been bombing IS in Syria, but also Kurds, the situation is getting far more tense. That could explode. Add to the number of conflicts and people on the move. Then there is history to take into account. Because the Ottomans went on the side of the Germans and Austro-Hungarians in WW1, their decline was completed at the end of it. Some of their provinces went to their old 'enemy' Csarist Russia just in time for the Revolution, other parts to a British and French mandate. The former ultimately created Israel and should have included an assured Palestine, having been the province of that name, and ensured the existence of Jordan. The latter had what is now Lebanon and Syria which were a province that should never really have been separated but were to give the Christians, who were the Lebanese majority, their own state. Something like 97% of all Lebanese Christians or people of that descent now live in other countries because of wars in that area for much of the country's life. The UK also had most of Iraq and France has had some under mandatory control for long periods. On the basis of 'colonial' history, both countries have a moral obligation as well. Difficult one that.

So, history and what is happening in the world are making it more and more complicated, many more people are becoming displaced and thus the present crisis is drawing attention to the 'problems'. The bigger question arises. What is the rest of the world to do? Do we sit back and let people die en masse or do we try to do something about it? Climate change deniers are good example of refusing to accept that polar melting will do for entire small nations and are actually refusing to acknowledge any such possibility. It is not eccentrics and nutters calling out for something to be done but a large majority of scientists. It is all part of the same phenomenon of long term numbers of displaced people increasing fairly quickly and probably permanently. So what do we do? What it is creating is the pre-conditions for something similar to the early 1930s and extremism to gain a strong foothold. The ultimate outcome would make WW2 look like the teddy bears' picnic. It is frightening. Personally I prefer to retain the benefit of the doubt on that last point but too many people who understand those things far better are making rather gloomy prognoses. I am am not worried for myself but for my children and their generation.

If there is any solution at all, then perhaps working on the present state of the world is the priority. The UN is as good as useless at present, broke with bad leadership throughout and little support from many countries. That might be a starting point. It will not resolve the present situation but might hold what is a not very promising future in which we have not seen anything yet in check.

(Mark Rimmer) #19

I've got to a point now that I have to go against popular opinion & voice some concerns about the thousands of migrants wanting to settle in Europe.

I feel sorry for Hungary & the bad press it is getting. Today, Sky News ran a piece about Hungarian border police "fired tear gas & water cannon" on migrants trying to cross the border. Although low power water cannon were used, the implication that tear gas canisters were fired into the crowd was deliberately misleading. Police did use personal hand held aerosol sprays of tear gas, a close quarters defence weapon, not the rifle launched & far more likely to injure gas grenades the term "fired" implies.

How can the Hungarian authorities justify their actions? Simple! They are simply following EU protocols regarding migrants. Hungary is a sovereign state & has every right to choose who enters the country, as every country has. We have to pass through passport & immigration checks whenever we enter a country outside the EU, it's normal. What we do NOT have the right to do is force our way in to a sovereign territory. If done en mass that is tantamount to invasion, especially when done agressively. There is no doubt that large groups of migrants attacked Hungary's border in a very agressive way.

I know that these people are escaping a terrible existence in Syria by coming to Europe but the behavior of many leaves me speechless! One they arrive in Europe their lives are not in immediate danger but to arrive somewhere with nothing & EXPECT that your every wish will be granted IMMEDIATELY is expecting too much. Europe is trying but let's face it, if you run a B & B with 5 bedrooms you will have to disappoint a few if a thousand guests turn up unannounced demanding to be fed & watered!

The behaviour of many makes me think that we are letting a potental time bomb into our midst. Not just the odd IS infiltrator but the others who do not seem to be able to behave in a civilised manner. Another look on Youtube at the news footage that is not always shown (who would dare criticise, the way public opinion is trending at the moment?) & you will find Calais migrants, faces hidden, looting local charity vans of food. One charity worker tried to justify this by saying that they are hungry. Starving prisoners released from concentration camps did not overwhelm the food trucks sent for them & they really were hungry!

In other parts of Europe aid is being refused & in some cases destroyed by the migrants. Food supplied by the Red Cross is rudely rather than politely refused on the weak basis that it is not Halal - but if you were really hungry you could eat everything else in the box - I don't think there is a halal mars bar!

Here is another news video, from Germany, highlighting problems with migrants in some schools.

One only has to read the comments posted by some viewers to get a feeling that the welcome given by Europe is far from universal & although I do not agree with most of them I can certainly understand that we should not be so naive to believe that Europe will seamlessly absorb a few million extra people whose lifestyle is so different.

No, I'm not a racist, bigot, right wing or left wing extremist, nazi or anti muslim. I do not lack compassion but sometimes is does us no harm to look at things from a different angle & not to ignore things which do not sit well with our thinking.

There is no doubt that within this wave of disrupted humanity there are elements that we need to take into account. Offering to put a family of migrants up in your barn (no running water in mine) is not going to help anyone, especially a person who has come from a country with no infrastructure left & demands the provision of basic amenities.

My worry is the reaction of these people when what they WANT rather than what they need cannot be immediately provided. Most may be stoical but a large number are not.

(Carl Alban) #20

And with my humble apologies.......UP YOUR'S GLEN....