Social media can be a battlefield for me at the best of times. I have strong views and I’m also a journalist so I’m often trolled for reporting on the news, no matter how objective I am.
Unlike most journalists, I live in a rural village near a very small town of just 6000 people, we rarely hit the headlines. Until this week.
I’ve been vocal about the Brexit, I’m following the presidential race with gusto and I have my own views on immigration. I’d like to think I’m a generous person, overly so – I secretly pay for people’s shopping in the town, and never reveal my identity (until now) and I’ll also give out a lot of money when visiting London to the homeless, even when I haven’t much in my bank. I’m far from rich, but I know, £10 here and there won’t leave me starving, but it will make a big difference to someone else.
When we receive products to review, I donate them, of course I keep a few that need testing (in order to write the review) but if they’re still in good condition afterwards they’ll go the local schools, hostels, anywhere that needs them. I spend my life giving and I’m not complaining, it makes me happy. Why then am I seen as such a monster? The reason, I voted Brexit.
I didn’t vote Brexit because of immigration, my full list of reasons is here. Everyone assumes I’m a racist just because of that one vote, so when the first influx of immigrants were housed in my local village, it made sense for people to turn to me, to see what I had to say.
I can see both sides of the argument, and I’m happy to enter into a healthy discussion (with no name calling or mud slinging). I’ve talked to Calais jungle residents first hand and I’ve also helped those escaping sex trafficking from Africa (I actually wrote a soon to be published book on it).
I strongly believe that all people are humans and we should help those in need. If the migrants were younger, I would happily foster to help. As it is, the age they are, and the sex, means I can’t, having two younger daughters in the house.
Two pages were created as soon as the news broke of the refugees coming to our small town.
The story, covered by the BBC and more details a site outside of Torrington that is used as an activity centre. This has become a temporary home to over 70 refugees, all of whom are over 14 and male.
Of course, there are questions there.
The Bigotry Stems from Fear
My own opinion is this, and I’m ashamed to say some of it stems from fear. I work in London and I’ve travelled extensively so I’m not a narrow-minded bigot. I have three children and they’re quite meek, not really London streetwise and they will always be my main priority. Always.
I want to help. I really do. I also have questions. I’ve spoken to Calais migrants who are looking for the “free bank” and I’ve been on the receiving end of hatred and abuse when I have passed migrants in the street and not stopped to hand out. (I have handed out cash further on, to females, for my own safety nothing else).
I’ve witnessed first hand ridicule by some who think we’re the lowest of the low and interviewed those who love to con British girls as they think we’re all loose with our morals and our clothes.
Questions Are Met with Anger, We Need to Educate Not Ridicule
These are the images that spring to mind when the news travels that these are young adult males. No females, no toddlers, no under twelves. Why?
Like all the bigots I imagine migrants laughing in our face, claiming our benefits and making our daughters feel unsafe on the streets. When refugees are mentioned, I picture those of world war 2 not hunks of men who need a size 11 in a grown man’s shoe!
I had questions and I was ashamed of my reaction. It didn’t help that every person asking genuine questions was affronted by the local “do gooder” who has actually been accused of theft from charities on a regular basis. I wanted some answers and I wanted to be more sympathetic, I wanted reassurance that these really did need help and weren’t just after a free ride so I reached out to the wonderful woman of the Refugees ARE Welcome page to ask.
Ask And You Will Receive
From the outset I explained, I didn’t want to be bigoted but there are questions that keep popping up and it would be nice to draw a line through these and move on. Otherwise, the hatred being stirred up will split our lovely community in half, and that would be so sad. We’re all a great group.
We’re just on two sides.
- Those that are scared
- Those that are not
That’s how I see it. I sit somewhere in between. I’m a little scared we’ll endure the same problems as Germany on New Year’s eve, I’m scared we’re being taken advantage of, scared we’re a bit too naïve. I’m worried for my daughters and hope that the transition will mean, the refugees integrate fully to accept our beliefs and culture even if they don’t agree.
In summary, I feel quite ashamed. I looked deep but not deep enough.These are the questions I see again and again:
Why are we only donating clothes for young adult men?
I’ve heard the argument that the journey was too perilous for women but it still doesn’t make any sense. Would you risk the journey or stay where you’d be bombed? Would you really leave your family behind? I doubt it.
This is what the refugees are welcome guys told me:
Why so old? Studies show that teenagers take the most risk in society out of all of the age demographics. They have taken a big risk to come over here. We also know that a lot of younger children aren’t strong enough to make the journey. There is also the risk of trafficking, and mothers with young children may not feel they are able to make the journey safely. It also costs money for them to get here. Only the richest are likely to make the journey, the poorest are left to try and survive in the rubble. Some families may pick their strongest family member (teenage son) a pay for them to make it to safety first, and then he can help to save his family from there.
Why all male? Men take risks, females have the children to look after women will often stay to look after their parents if they’re still alive. Women and girls are also susceptible to drugs and sex trafficking.
Why haven’t the refugees accepted refugee status in France, or any other country they’ve travelled through?
Again I’ve heard the story that they have, only a small amount ended up here but still it doesn’t answer the question as to WHY they want to get into Britain when so many countries are ready to take them? It makes bigots like me think they’re looking for the free bank. Until I learn otherwise, I will think that’s the reason Britain was chosen. I don’t blame them, we offer stability and wealth, (in a fashion), I just want a better answer for those who are accusing the refugees of taking advantage.
Here’s the answer from the refugees are welcome page:
So, why Britain? Well, there are EU agreements about how many refugees are to be taken in by different countries. We are only taking in a small percentage. And they’re not all coming here! They ARE going to different countries too! Are they coming to Britain for the benefits? Britain is not the only country with a benefit system- Scandinavia and Germany for example also have very good benefit systems. Also, a lot of people hear the word ‘refugee’ and forget the fact that before they were forced to flee their countries, many of them were actually very well off, they had good jobs and they are well educated. They are hard working people who have been left with nothing. Also, where they’ve come from, they’re not used to a benefit system, they’re not used to being pampered by the government like we are over here. They’re here for safety and to build a better life for themselves and their family. They’ve worked so hard to get this far and I highly doubt they will settle for a life on benefits. Also, they have been assessed to come here, for example they may have family who are already here and so they will be reunited with them.
Why isn’t the same being done for our own homeless?
I’ve heard that we’re already doing lots for the homeless but we’re not really. Would this approach work? House all the homeless in temporary accommodation and work with each one individually until they find their feet, as that’s what’s been done for the refugees. Why can’t we do that for our own? I’m not asking for me, I’ve seen these questions everywhere. The answer to this is, we are, there are initiatives for the homeless but not enough. As a community we need to do more.
Are these just economic migrants?
Here’s what the page told me:
How do we know they’re real refugees, not just economic migrants? Refugees have come here for safety and security. They are here to better themselves and to create a better future for their families- you don’t get that by living on a benefit system. These people have made a MASSIVE journey to get here, surely they’re doing it for something more than a benefit system. And like I said earlier, many of these people are very well educated and had very good jobs where they come- there are doctors, lawyers, teachers… but this all quite often gets forgotten when we call them all by the same label ‘refugee
Will the Events in Germany Repeat Over Here?
Finally, many of us fear the same happening as it did in Germany (or as the newspapers reported it). Will we have to lock up our daughters, will we be overtaken to become a minority ourselves? The Refugees are Welcome page told me:
I would say that we always have the inclination to blame the outsiders, people who we don’t know and don’t understand, refugees are always going to be the first to get the blame. But the more welcoming we are the more respect we will have for each other, if you treat people nicely this is more likely to be reciprocated. We also need to remember there are the good and bad in humanity regardless of their race or religion.
And the media are looking for sensationalism. The problem is that particular arms of the media are supporting right wing xenophobic political ideas
In summary, I feel quite ashamed. I looked deep but not deep enough. I had no idea some came from privileged backgrounds; I had no idea Germany offered the same benefits. I had no idea about a lot of this and I’m betting, many others didn’t either. I’m ashamed of being scared and now packing up boxes of art supplies and other goodies to give to these amazing people who have made the perilous journey and are as proud of our country as I am. I’m proud they’ve chosen our sleepy town of Torrington and I’m happy they’ve received such a warm welcome.
If this post can change one mind and remove the fear for those labelled bigots, I’ve done my job properly.
If you take offence at this post, please read it again. It’s not meant to cause offence. It’s meant to answer all questions objectively in order to remove the fear so we can all move forward.