There are many thousands of people in our nation who are working incredibly hard to provide safety and support for Asylum seekers. The people who are arriving are seeking somewhere they can come to that is secure having left their own nations because of violence and destruction. One of my close friends is a Midwife and she has recently been caring for some of the people who have arrived in recent days on boats. Along with caring for their pregnancies and their births she is also organising clothing and other elements so that the women and their families get some protection now they are in our nation. Sadly a few miles away in Hastings some of the people who are working to provide fish for that area have been criticising the RNLI team for saving lives from the people who have left France. They have done so because they believe they will get a better possible life here in the UK and as Simon Hoare explained in his letter they are also being controlled by people who treat them as a form of modern slavery. So here is Simon’s letter that someone who I know has just published it on Facebook. We should applaud him for his Letter and let us hope that his views will get listened to by people like Priti Patel, Damian Hinds and Kevin Foster and of course Boris Johnson.
I would like you to share an experience of mine which I hope none of you will ever experience. Picture this: three years ago my eldest daughter, while we were on holiday in Wales, wanted to go on a kayak. We hired one for a few hours. It was a lovely, warm, calm August day. We had a lovely time. Returning from our trip, and about 100m from shore, we hit the confluence of the river estuary, a fresher wind and a turned incoming tide. I was at the stern, a wave caught us under the bow. We went over. Both ended up in the water. If I close my eyes I can still hear the panicked cry of ‘Daddy!!’ as we both bobbed to the surface. My daughter was then 10. I grabbed her. Still buffeted by rising waves going over our heads I got her to hold the kayak. I rescued the paddles and we swam to an inlet where, scratched by barnacles, soaked through and frankly frightened we sorted ourselves out. Caught our breaths. Paddled like fury and returned to the little beach and safety.
I thought of this as I read about the souls lost in the Channel this week. The words of the hymn ‘Eternal Father Strong To Save’ so recently sung at Remembrance Sunday echoed in my ears: ‘for those in peril on the sea’. Not a single one of us can ever pretend to understand or share the imperatives, dangers, hopes, fears, aspirations that drive people from their homeland to seek a better future across our continent. I had the tiniest glimpse of the gut tightening anxiety of a much loved daughter in trouble in a choppy sea. But, we were not in the middle of the world’s busiest shipping lane. It wasn’t November. We weren’t in an overcrowded, not fit for purpose vessel. We could see the shore.
Too much time is taken up in politics talking about numbers and statistics. Don’t get me wrong, both are important but with regards to the issues such as we have witnessed this week they are meaningless. Migrants did not die. X% of those crossing did not perish. PEOPLE drowned. Sons, daughters, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters perished. They would have been terrified. The water freezing. No hope of rescue. We simply cannot envisage the desolate loneliness of those people. All of us must recast the conversation surrounding this issue. We must remember our shared humanity. That we are talking about fellow human beings and not statistics. Then we can have a proper, rational debate. If anyone is to be condemned, it is those who make a fortune from a form of modern slavery. I try not to be vengeful but how I would love to put these evil individuals into a flimsy dinghy in wintry conditions and set them off towards Dover in the dark. To give them a flavour of what it feels like.
I am more than aware of the additional pressures that those making the crossing put on our social and other services. The current situation is not sustainable. We must work collaboratively with the French and other European Governments to have a shared response. I pray that we actually try to solve the issue rather than playing the blame game and victimising the ‘others’ to protect the ‘us’.
Is it naïve to make the following comment? Is the fact that some of our fellow human beings are prepared to risk life and limb to come to the UK a source of pride? They don’t see the White Cliffs. They see a beacon of hope, a citadel of decency, a functioning democracy, a stable form of governance, a land of peace and of opportunity. A country of values and honour. I think there is something rather noble in that assessment as to how we are seen.
We are approaching the Christmas Season and we focus upon the birth of Jesus. But the Christian story would have been a very short one had not two parents, for the safety of their child, made a flight into Egypt. Let the charity of our Christian faith be more than a form of ritualistic, platitudinous words. Let it be more than that. Let it start with the simple truth: we talk of people not statistics.
May those who lost their lives Rest in Peace.
Member of Parliament for North Dorset