What is the collective noun for migrants? Horde will not do it seems; swarm, bunch, multitude, gang, flock, there are plenty of words but then there is an army of people who will take offence whatever you say.
The problem is that they are all individuals with the same hopes, fears and desires as you and I.
When we begin to speak of a crowd of people, we say things that we would never apply to an individual.
There is no doubt that refugees, immigrants, asylum seekers or whatever we call them are phenomena of our time. No doubt either that we do not know what to think or what to do about them.
Waves of Immigrants
We have had immigration coming in waves before in our lifetimes. Pre WWII Jews fleeing Nazi Germany and Austria settled in UK. So many of them contributed to the fabric of our civilization, its arts, science, commerce, trade and education.
Next we had West Indian Immigrants encouraged by the government. These people had a more difficult time because of their colour.
Then Idi Amin expelled all the Asians from Uganda. They arrived here and showed us how to set up corner shops, open all hours.
Throughout this time there was a steady stream of immigrants from former colonies. Some of these were in quotas allotted to Universities, others were here as of right as British Subjects and others came to work. The health service was dependent on Asian doctors and other support staff.
We all know some immigrants
We are used to immigrants, we have accommodated them. There are many in Chandler’s Ford. In our own circle of friends and acquaintances there are Indians, Sri Lankans, Pakistanis, Chinese, Italian, South African, Iranian, German, Poles and French. They are settled here and have provided valuable skills, services and culture to enrich our lives.
Why are we worried?
Why are we so concerned about the current wave of migrants from the middle east? Is it the mixed emotions we feel; one the one hand the sympathy for drowned children picked up from a Greek beech and on the other hand the self-declared Jihadis committed to destroying as many lives of non-believers as possible. Perhaps it is a fear of being overwhelmed by sheer weight of numbers.
There is the unacknowledged anxiety that our governments, local, national, European and international have no idea what to do. Some say we should welcome all who wish to come – they do so in the knowledge that it will not be them, personally, who have to budge up and make room. Others say all immigrants of certain ethnicity should be banned and even expelled.
One feels sympathetic but when it comes to trying to get doctors’ appointments, places in schools, housing, social services and jobs we find these services under pressure from those who have not contributed to the system.
What should we do?
What ought we to do? What can we do? What would we like to do? What can’t we do? We cannot keep them out, there will be a steady movement across even the most heavily policed borders aided by the new profession of people smugglers. Expensive razor wire fences are no match for a crowd of 1000 people with half a dozen wire cutters.
Let them in, especially those poor folk in Calais. OK but as soon as the Calais camp is emptied, it will fill up again. Accept only the ones with qualifications. Now there is an invitation for the forgers of diplomas and university degrees. Our compassion will run to a few thousand immigrants but the requirement is for millions to find new homes, and then bring in their relatives.
Should we perhaps go the middle east and sort it out to make it a decent place to live. We have tried that several times starting with the Balfour Declaration and failed every time. No lessons have been learned.
Have you any good ideas?
Story of an immigrant family in Chandler’s Ford
A family from Sri Lanka living here in Chandler’s Ford had a baby son. The health visitors and social workers were very concerned as he was small and well below average weight for his age. The Health Visitors advised the mother about feeding, then became suspicious and angry that the child was still well below average.
Eventually the father obtained growth charts for Sri Lankan children and showed the child was of average weight for Sri Lankans.
That was 22 years ago. The boy is now almost 6 ft tall but still of slender build. He will qualify as a doctor in Sri Lanka next year.
There is a delightful variety among humans. East Africans tend to be the best long distance runners. Finns tend to be the tallest people. Culture and religion tends to make difference between people but our basic needs, hopes and desires are all the same.
Let’s enjoy the poem Refugee Blues by W. H. Auden, written in 1939.
Refugee Blues – W H Auden
Say this city has ten million souls,
Some are living in mansions, some are living in holes:
Yet there’s no place for us, my dear, yet there’s no place for us.
Once we had a country and we thought it fair,
Look in the atlas and you’ll find it there:
We cannot go there now, my dear, we cannot go there now.
In the village churchyard there grows an old yew,
Every spring it blossoms anew;
Old passports can’t do that, my dear, old passports can’t do that.
The consul banged the table and said:
‘If you’ve got no passport, you’re officially dead’;
But we are still alive, my dear, but we are still alive.
Went to a committee; they offered me a chair;
Asked me politely to return next year:
But where shall we go today, my dear, but where shall we go today?
Came to a public meeting; the speaker got up and said:
‘If we let them in, they will steal our daily bread’;
He was talking of you and me, my dear, he was talking of you and me.
Thought I heard the thunder rumbling in the sky;
It was Hitler over Europe, saying: ‘They must die’;
We were in his mind, my dear, we were in his mind.
Saw a poodle in a jacket fastened with a pin,
Saw a door opened and a cat let in:
But they weren’t German Jews, my dear, but they weren’t German Jews.
Went down the harbour and stood upon the quay,
Saw the fish swimming as if they were free:
Only ten feet away, my dear, only ten feet away.
Walked through a wood, saw the birds in the trees;
They had no politicians and sang at their ease:
They weren’t the human race, my dear, they weren’t the human race.
Dreamed I saw a building with a thousand floors,
A thousand windows and a thousand doors;
Not one of them was ours, my dear, not one of them was ours.
Stood on a great plain in the falling snow;
Ten thousand soldiers marched to and fro:
Looking for you and me, my dear, looking for you and me.
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Israeli Tanks Cross the Suez Canal. Immigrants