The Blog

My Immigrant Problem

I don't know what is going on in Syria.

There, I've said it. I am not socially and politically aware. I'm not stupid, I have a list of qualifications to convince myself otherwise but I am politically naïve and I don't think I am alone in this.

My leisure time is limited and when I do have time to myself I don't watch the news or read newspapers. I feel guilty about this. I feel that by not keeping up with current affairs I am not fully contributing as a member of society. I feel that not having an awareness of my surroundings makes me a less useful worker bee. Occasionally my guilt forces me to switch on the news. At this point I am bombarded by images and facts which I am unable to process. The news is a bit like Eastenders, if you don't watch it every the day the story soon becomes almost impossible to follow.

So I don't know what is happening in Syria. I'm not completely deaf, dumb and blind though so I do at least know it is something bad. I'm also old enough to have lived through a number of previous crises so I can take an educated guess that what is happening in Syria involves guns, bombs, armed militia and possibly religion...........and displaced people.......lots of displaced people.

Displaced people sounds like such an innocent term. Like when I get in the bath with my children and displace the water around them so it is suddenly six inches deeper and they squeal with joy. When you really think about what the term means when applied to people though it's pretty uncomfortable. People, who have been bombed out of their home, people who are running from a risk that they see as life threatening. People forced to leave behind the trappings of a previously comfortable life. People like me. People who were previously well off with a good job and a nice home. People who have lost almost everything.

Of course I think these things could never really happen to me. We're sensible. We have money in the bank. If our country went to war with itself (which of course would never happen) we'd get out in time. We'd take our savings and our transferable skills and go somewhere safe like Australia or Scandinavia - they'd let us in right? Because we're good people, good members of society, with good jobs.......

I only really started to pay attention to what is happening in Syria because I started to read (nobody can avoid the news completely) about the immigrant crisis. I only started to pay attention to this because we were going to France for our holiday and it seemed like there might be a problem with our transport there due to the thousands of selfish refugees hanging out in Calais interrupting the plans of British holiday makers.

I started worrying about these people a bit. Wondering what was going on with them and why weren't they being allowed into Britain? I did some Googling. I still don't really understand the answer but the more I searched the more it became apparent that to our government 'Immigrant crisis' means that people are trying to get into our country and we should be stopping them. I found several reassuring newspaper articles. Apparently we don't need to worry because the government have pledged 7 million pounds towards re-enforcing the barriers around Eurotunnel to stop those pesky migrants from getting into our precious country.

This isn't quite the reassurance I was looking for. I'm worried about these people, where will they go? What will they do? They can't stay in Calais forever. Then I read about more people. The ones who have made it to Greece - not exactly the most stable country right now - what are they going to do? In an overwhelming rush of comprehension I'm suddenly seeing with desperate clarity that this is a crisis affecting millions of people. I'm overwhelmed.

Yet we, and by we I mean the British, seem supremely unconcerned. I see posts on Facebook every day about how we need to keep these people out of our country. The word refugee has fallen into disuse - replaced by the more threatening 'immigrant'. Of course I understand the fear. We have a great quality of life. We eat ourselves into obesity and concern ourselves with who will win X-Factor - why would we want to share our riches with these refugees? I understand that, for a lot of people, things in Britain aren't great. There are children depending on foodbanks and people living in poverty, I understand. But there are also millions of people like me. People with good jobs, comfortable lives and disposable income. People like me who are standing by allowing millions of others to suffer and doing nothing.

How will I be remembered in years to come? Will we be looked at like the Germans before and during World War 2 who stood by whilst Hitler committed genocide? Will I hope that this crisis too will pass and be forgotten and nobody will remember that I did nothing because I didn't want my comfortable life to be upset?

So I am going to do something. I'm not sure what yet but it starts with collecting together a bag full of winter clothes to give to an aid charity who will transport them to Calais. It continues with explaining to my kids what is going on and how I feel about it. It continues with letting my daughter make a necklace and a note to put in the pocket of one of her old coats. With sending the girls and my husband to the shops to buy some tinned food and basic first aid supplies (My daughter's idea) to send with the clothes. It starts with writing this post.

I don't know what I will do after I hit publish.

I'm willing to make sacrifices. I want our government to allow more refugees into our country. I want them to set up a settlement programme to help them. I want us to start acting like the fifth richest country in the world instead of like frightened children who don't want to share. I'm willing to pay more tax. I'm willing to work a few extra hours for no pay. If push comes to shove I'm willing to sacrifice our spare room to a refugee family.

How do I communicate this feeling though?

I'm not sure but I'm going to start by lobbying my MP and attending a rally at the Scottish Parliament on Saturday.

This has to be more than tipping a bucket of cold water over my head and calling it charity. When the history books are written I know how I want to be remembered, how about you?