No human is 'illegal' - why we have to support those seeking refuge
"You have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land" Home, Warsan Shire
Posted on 18 August 2020
Crisis is a word we hear a lot these days. Financial crisis, climate crisis, coronavirus crisis. When such a powerful word is used so often it’s easy to become desensitised.
But one ‘crisis’ where it's absolutely vital that we maintain our humanity, our morality and our passion for change is the ‘refugee crisis’.
What makes this crisis different from the others is that it’s not a crisis in the way some would lead us to believe.
England is not being ‘invaded’ by ‘criminals’ and we do not need a ‘Channel threat commander’ to protect us.
This narrative is insensitive and extremely damaging. In fact, refugees only make up 0.26 per cent of the UK’s population, far less than other countries such as France and Germany.
What makes this a crisis is the fact people are dying. The fact that people feel the need to flee in the first place.
It’s just five years since we saw the harrowing photos of Alan Kurdi’s body washed up on a Turkish beach. The three-year-old Syrian refugee drowned as a result of escaping with his family from the war-torn country that was his home.
While difficult to look at, it's important we keep this image at the forefront of our minds. No parent would risk their child’s life unless they felt like they had no other choice.
You cannot put a price on life, and if you could, it certainly wouldn’t be the £37.75 per week welfare payments people are being misled into believing refugees are making dangerous crossings for.
During Coronavirus, many of us have struggled not seeing family and friends, being furloughed or working from home, not having access to certain products and luxuries. If this is difficult for us, imagine what it’s like to say goodbye to your loved ones permanently, to turn your back on your career, to leave your belongings behind because you feel unsafe in your native country. In your home.
It’s not enough for us to sympathise with those making a desperate journey, we need to show our support. We need to add our voices to those who are struggling to be heard. Who are being criminalised simply for seeking protection.
Arm yourself with facts. Support organisations that support refugees and asylum seekers such as the British Red Cross, Save the Children, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), UNICEF, World Food Programme, Amnesty International and Refugee Action.
And perhaps most importantly, put pressure on our government to address the issues of why people feel they have no other option but to seek asylum, instead of trying to keep them out when they’re already in danger.
It is important for democracy that government is forced to recognise that the electorate can recognise when its messages are morally and legally wrong, and that as lawyers we are in a position to point such things out.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at the end of 2018 there were 126,720 refugees, 45,244 pending asylum cases and 125 stateless persons in the UK.
But these atrocities aren’t happening to statistics. They’re happening to real people who feel the same emotions we do, who love and who are loved. As fellow humans it's our duty to do all we can to help them.