Refugee crisis: don’t stand by

by Daphne Liddle

THE THEME of this year’s Holocaust Memorial events has been: “Don’t stand by” — a phrase with particular significance in the light of the current refugee crisis unfolding throughout Europe.

On Monday 25th January a demonstration for migrants’ rights drew parallels between Holocaust victims and refugees stranded in Calais.

A group of demonstrators — calling themselves Never Again Ever! — gathered outside the Home Office to commemorate the end of the Nazi Holocaust and to demand more rights for migrants.

Holocaust survivor Ruth Barnett questioned what had changed since she arrived via Kindertransport. The 77-yearold said: “Refugees would not have come to Europe if we had opened our eyes, minds and hearts to help them preserve their homes and culture many years ago when violence began.

“They had to come because we failed them then. Now they are here, we must not fail them again. They deserve to have their immediate needs met with compassion and kindness while we process their applications for asylum until their homes are safe to return to.

“If we treat them with respect and they wish to stay they will contribute riches to our culture as waves of refugees have done previously. If we treat them with hostility and contempt — we will have problems instead of the riches they might give us.”

At Calais a monstrous humanitarian crisis has been building for several years now as desperate refugees try to make their way to Britain while both the French and British governments try to deny responsibility and cast the blame back and forth.

Both countries have played a significant role in creating the crisis, taking the lead — along with the Unites States — in imperialist aggressions in the Middle East and Africa that have wrecked and destabilised sovereign countries such as Iraq, Libya and Syria.

The imperialists have undermined secular, progressive governments that were resisting the imposition of US/Nato hegemony, and have fostered the growth of gangs of lawless murderers and mercenaries posing as extremist Muslims such as ISIS, Boko Harem and Al Shahab.

Most refugees from Syria do not make it to Europe but are now accommodated in vast camps in different parts of Syria, or in neighbouring countries like Lebanon and Jordan.

Nevertheless many thousands of refugees have made it to Europe’s southern shores, despite the all too real risk of drowning in the Mediterranean on the way.

Greece and Italy have borne the brunt of receiving these thousands of refugees but neither of these countries has a strong economy.

The refugees have spread their way across Europe, meeting different responses in different countries and at different times.

But in getting to Britain refugees face the physical obstacle of the English Channel and David Cameron’s government — very much guilty of being part of the cause of the problem — is very reluctant to let in more than a few refugees. Hence the vast refugee encampment at Calais.

The French government does not want this camp to become a permanent settlement. It wants the refugees to get to Britain and to become someone else’s problem; so it does its best to make conditions there as inhospitable as possible. The result is an humanitarian nightmare for the refugees.

Last weekend Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn along with Diane Abbott visited the Calais camp. This is what Corbyn had to say: “We saw squalid conditions that no human being should be living in. We also saw incredible resourcefulness of people with nothing building schools, restaurants and other communal areas.

“We heard harrowing accounts from refugees who are facing a freezing winter, assaults by the police and attacks by fascists...

“We must reach out the hand of humanity to the victims of war and brutal repression. Along with other EU states, Britain needs to accept its share of refugees from the conflicts on Europe’s borders, including the horrific civil war in Syria.

“We have to do more. As a matter of urgency, David Cameron should act to give refuge to unaccompanied refugee children now in Europe — as we did with Jewish Kindertransport children escaping from Nazi tyranny in the 1930s.

“And the Government must provide the resources needed for those areas accepting refugees — including in housing and education — rather than dumping them in some of Britain’s poorest communities.”

On Saturday 30th January a gaggle of other right wing groups, including Kent National Front, the North West Infidels, English Volunteer Force and the Pie & Mash Squad, will be holding their fourth anti-immigration march through the seaside town of Dover.

But a larger army of anti- fascists will also be going to Dover to oppose the fascists and to tell refugees they are welcome. These are the people who are not standing by.