I am a third generation immigrant. My grandmother survived Auschwitz and Belsen. The British Army arrived on the 15th April 1945 and were greeted by emaciated survivors sitting among corpses. Had the army arrived a week later, I probably wouldn't be writing this now.
She was alive. But she had nowhere to go.
By May 1946, the war had been over for nearly a year, yet my Grandmother, alongside many thousands of survivors, was still stuck in Belsen. She was fed and clean, had a bed to sleep in, yet she was in abject limbo. No country to return to. No doors open to her. After some delicate forgery, a slight alteration of birthdate, and a little subterfuge, she was finally able to start her life in Britain in 1946; she studied cello at the Guildhall, became a founding member of the English Chamber Orchestra and raised a family. She was recently awarded an Honorary Doctorate at Cambridge University by the Duke of Edinburgh for recognition of her work in Holocaust Education. Her son Raphael is an internationally renowned cellist and is even the President of the British Music Society (he is the first generation of our family to be born in Britain). I and my siblings (Benjamin and Joanna) continue the musical dynasty, in respective fields of: Opera, Jazz and Film music. None of this could have been possible, had my Grandparents not been granted Asylum in Great Britain.
With this in mind, I want to share my horror and shame at our Government's response to the refugee/immigrant crisis in Calais and Kent. It is wholly irresponsible of Cameron to have referred to people in desperate need, each carrying an individual story of unique hardship and peril as: "A swarm of people". He makes it sounds positively biblical! How ironic, (not to mention embarrassing, awkward and surely politically incorrect), that he should have also recently said: "We are a Christian Nation." Well, since he said it, and we put him in charge, let's prove him right (as in: 'correct', not as in: 'winged'): Let Britain shine a light of hope and salvation to those desperate people who are going through hell, living in a whirlwind of fear and hope, believing that Britain is a place of sanctuary.
Is there really no room at the inn?
For the time being, instead of spending millions on higher fences and sharper razor wire, let us send a dedicated team of experts to the camps around Calais, to help ensure the people there are fed, healthy and safe. Give them advice from representatives of the British government explaining the process of asylum, offering them real support, and even beginning the process of application.
Why force people to risk their lives if (once successful on entering the UK) they will be granted asylum anyway? Is this part of a sordid test?
Surely, if we can spend over £7million on hardware, a few thousand pounds for government officials and dedicated professionals is nothing.
This crisis should be treated like the British Army did in the months after the liberation of Belsen. In today's context it could look like this: A committee of EU representatives working to sort out and organise these people, deciding which individuals can go to which country, and allow them begin their lives, start families and contribute to their new nations.
Waiting for more people to get killed, or hoping they will give up and go elsewhere and become someone else's problem, is not a viable option.
Under the noses of an apathetic British Government, over 6,000,000 Jewish people were murdered in Nazi occupied Europe. Britain took in several thousand young people before the war began known as the 'Kinder Transport', but did very little even when the full mechanism of mass-murder was known to British Intelligence. Not even a single bomb was dropped on a railway line leading to a mass extermination camp. Yes, we were at war and suffering terribly in the Blitz. But, as I look outside now, all the street lights are on. We are fine, there are no air-raid sirens as I sit here with my curtains open and desk lamp on. We are at peace in this country. We therefore have the opportunity, the responsibility and the duty to help in a very practical sense. Let us please do so. Let us try and find solutions that are humane, ethical and give these people a chance to begin their lives as welcome immigrants in our country and others within the EU.
Building higher fences will only mean higher casualties. Nobody is going to say: "Oh dear, what a big fence, I'll just go back home then."
Each new death will be on our hands. This is shameful.
These people are not our enemies.
If we only approach this crisis in a humane way, let people in, we will certainly find future national treasures. Strength of character; Strong will; Determination; Intelligence. These are welcome gifts to any employer. Each individual who has managed to survive the perils of war, persecution and a dangerous journey across Europe certainly has these character traits in abundance. Let us do what is right.