Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Refugees...the Conservative case for welcome


This evening we're sitting in the pub retelling the old tales, things we've been told by folk in times past. And during this talk one of those post-WW2 stories was told. A story of a Pole or Ukrainian walking across Europe ahead of the Russian armies desperate to find a place of freedom. The detail doesn't matter just the remembering of the effort and sacrifice - leaving friends and family behind, hiding from Soviet troops, living off the land hoping for the occasional, unexpected act of kindness.

Scroll forward nearly 70 years and ask yourself how these young men (they were mostly young men) differ from the young men we see clutching the gunnels of a rickety boat or crowded into some railway station or other? I forget how many people were displaced by WW2 - 30, 50, perhaps 60 million? Poles, Ukrainians, Greeks, Germans, Italians and Jews. People who saw their homeland destroyed by war and then, seemingly arbitrarily, moved from Poland to the Soviet Union or from Germany to Poland.

Today we look - a blink of an eye later in terms of human history - and these people (or rather their descendants) are settled, content in the new places they found. Hence the stories. And the thousands of sturdy English men and women who, when asked, will tell you of their Polish mum, Ukrainian grandad or Latvian father. And everywhere across Europe the story is the same - the descendants of those refugees are part of the place they finally landed.

Here in Bradford we still remember the struggle of the captive nations, mark the Soviet genocide of holodomor, and recall the destruction of Srebenicia. We do this because it's right and, just as importantly, because the consequence of these struggles is part of the history and tradition of the City. Just as we mark Pakistan's creation and the independence of Jamaica.

So when we ask whether we should welcome a few Syrian refugees, we should recall these tales and say 'yes, we can help'. Not just because it's the right thing to do but because so much of our city's meaning comes from people who crossed the world to be in Bradford. Those few Syrians will, I'm sure, mark another group who found welcome here and who bring a new set of stories. My hope is that a future group of Bradfordians - in 50 years time - will be sat in the pub telling tales. And one of those tales will be about a Syrian who climbed fences, crossed boundaries and walked miles just to find peace and freedom.

To turn people away because "we're full" or worse "it's not our problem" is to deny our shared humanity. And - as a Conservative, more sadly - to deny the opportunity to share the history and tradition of our land. A place without that tale of effort and sacrifice in search of freedom, choice and a better life.



Anonymous said...

Of course we can "welcome a few Syrian refugees", and no doubt that will make us all feel better about ourselves as caring, compassionate citizens of the world.

So how many, in your view, is the "few" that you think the UK should accept? Half a dozen? A hundred? A thousand? A million?

Without specifics, this is all just attitudinising.

Hugo Evans said...

Great post

Anonymous said...

There is a key difference. All those Poles, Ukrainians and Hungarians who fled in terror and ended up in places like Bradford started their new lives in small ghettos but where are they now ? They've almost completely vanished because they progressively integrated into the local community, gradually moving out from their old-nationality-ghetto-lives and mixing into the leafier suburbs as they became established and wealthier.
Compare and contrast with the predominently Asian/ME influx over the past 50+ years. Guess what, they're still in their ghettos, even the successful ones, they simply build their houses bigger (sometimes stupidly-big for the locality, ably helped by Council planners for some unexplained reasons, you decide), but always in the same place, so the ghetto just gets bigger and integration never happens.
And that's why so many folk don't want more non-integrating immigration - they don't mind immigration per se, they just don't want ghettos, and they know that's what they'll get with the latest batch. It's called learning fron experience - try it sometime.

Anonymous said...

When the Kosovan-Serbian war resulted in many refugees, I phoned a government department to offer a home for a family. Now, I wouldn't and it saddens me that my heart has hardened so much. Why? Where do I begin? An understanding that Labour set about on an open-door immigration policy with the aim of securing a constituency; the knowledge that, despite the fact that I've never claimed benefits and have paid huge amounts to the Government, should I find myself homeless, the state wouldn't help me; being shouted down as a racist because I see those who would destroy our Western values being appeased at the expense of liberties which have taken centuries to win; because I see in the media images of so-called refugees who arrogantly,dismissively reject the offers of food and water, because I see people not fleeing fron persecution but demanding entry to the country of their choice; because the UK is so hidebound to regulation,laws and political correctness that those well-meaning people who have offered their home to a refugee might well find that they're on the wrong side if there's disagreement between them and their guests. Because I see Government riding roughshod over popular opinion, making decisions whch a policcally expedient. As far as the 'migrant crisis' as it's being dubbed in the popular press is concerned, I see a PM who has blown with the wind.

I was born and brought up in the UK (Scottish but livijg in England for many years). I'm going to raise an issue which you might think is a small matter but it has informed my happiness and my attitude towards politicians in the last 8 years: it is the smoking ban - leaving aside the issue of immigration, I since 1st July have felt that I, and my fellow smokers, have enjoyed a demonization that would never be accorded to any other group. IU see the likes of Anjam Choudray being accordeed a respect by the likes of the BBC whilst I, as a smoker, am treated as if I'm a piece of dirt.


asquith said...

Like half of this city, I have a Polish grandfather of my own, though he died in 1976 and I never met him.

And I commend to you Rush (who else) expressing their views of the migrant crisis and a whole lot else: