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Now is not the time for political polemic, tempting though it might have been to look at who has caused the crises across the world, in particular in Syria. It is a tragedy that it should have taken an image of a three-year-old Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, whose body was washed up on the Turkish coast to shock the world into caring for the plight of the displaced, distressed and disenfranchised. People aware of the image do not even mention or perhaps know of the fact that he was washed up on the shore along with his five-year-old brother and his mother. Where was the same shock when 71 decomposing bodies were found in a truck near Nickelsdorf last month?

No, now must be the time for action, to look at what can be done to avert this catastrophe before it worsens resulting in a flood of drowned children on beaches around the Mediterranean and beyond. And yet here I sit on an island which is only populated at all because people crossed the sea to get here and what I see is ambivalence, distain and reasons being given as to why this is not our problem.

Today I was at the first “Refugees Welcome” demonstration in England, I am proud of my city for standing up to be counted, similar meetings, demonstrations and marches have already begun in Europe and tangible action has begun there whilst the British politicians prevaricate until they are shamed into action. David Cameron said Britain was full, he did so in front of an empty field. Whilst in Germany Chancellor Merkel has already pledged that Germany will take an unprecedented number of refugees and will taken Syrians from wherever they have entered the EU. I have seen videos of refugees being cheered and clapped on the streets of Germany, little children being given gifts and hugs and a general outpouring of warmth. I am proud of Germany where I once lived and experienced racism myself, yet now it takes the football fans of German clubs and the clubs themselves to show us the example. Bravo Bayern München Refugee Plans und Borussia Dortmund.

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…and Germany is not well-known for its financial profligacy!

Someone articulated the counter argument to the right-wing posturing which will inevitably pervade. It is not about whether we can afford this or that, it is about leadership, it is about saying what it happening is morally wrong and we must find a way to sort this out. When I think how much money we are paying the politicians it seems only fair that indeed they do now need to earn it. If we are saying we are full whilst we have empty houses, empty bedrooms, food being thrown in the bin, blankets in the attic etc. then what we are actually saying is we cannot be bothered or we do not care. If our goal is to find a way then we will not focus on the obstacles we will focus on the endgame and how best we get there, we will solve the problem because it must be solved and impediments will be overcome if there is the will to do it. These refugees are humans, they are fleeing death or a life quite unimaginable to us cosseted in our comfy beds with duck down pillows. These people would be grateful for tents in a park and a 5 year old tin can of baked beans to eat in comparison with their current lot. Are we so heartless as to think we cannot help? And if we do not look to find a way then we merely fuel the business of the people smugglers, already extorting the sort of money from refugees that would pay a months rent for a very comfortable flat in the West just to give passage to Budapest.

These people are not lazy, they are not looking for a free ride, you do not uproot your whole family and leave your home and your possessions behind save for what you can carry unless the circumstances are extreme. Many of us have come to other countries seeking a better life, we have been allowed to live and work, to get education and training. This has enabled us to build a comfortable life with food, entertainment, transport, property and the like, more than we need for basic survival. Yet here we have people for whom basic survival would be a step up the ladder and we can offer our hands.

If you are not touched and cut to the very core by the images you are seeing in the news I question whether you are truly human. Personally I find it hard not to be ashamed that people might even feel they would be abandoned to their fate by people who have so much more than they need. Then I see the fences and the border controls and I know I have every reason to be ashamed.

I heard a speaker say they had been in Calais last month and that they had spoken to refugees camped there who wanted to come to England. The speaker asked the refugees if they could talk to the British people what would they like to say. She said that the most common response was “Mercy.” I struggle to hold back the tears even now.

Song Of The Day ~ Fréro Delavega – Le Chant Des Sirènes

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