Finding a place of refuge

What would we do if we were persecuted daily, if we risked being drummed into the army, if our front doors were kicked in and our mothers dragged off to be tortured?

Before I go on to earn your contempt as a bleeding-heart liberal and a social justice warrior who puts political correctness before common sense, let me start by saying I don't think we should let just anyone into the country. Nor do I think it is necessarily good to welcome people into our society who have no respect for our rules or traditions. It has taken us decades to free ourselves from the yoke of church dogma and there is no place here for religious extremism. Our public services are limited and hugely expensive to maintain and not to be squandered on people who cannot make a concomitant contribution. Women here fought hard for their equality and are examples that some cultures around the world would do well to follow.

So, now you're thinking: “Oh no, Neil's a fascist!”, but the first thing that came to mind when I read the testimonies of asylum seekers who fled their homes to find refuge in Catalonia (pages 28 to 35) was that it could so easily be me! If there is anything to take from the stories of these people who fled their countries, to save their lives, who came here looking for somewhere to live a normal life and be left alone to do so, it is that they are just like you and I. What would we do if we were being persecuted daily, if we risked being drummed into the military, if our front doors were being kicked in and our mothers dragged off to be tortured, if we left the house every day wondering if it would be there when we got back? We would leave if we could, all of us would.

And that is all these people we lump together as “asylum seekers” or “refugees” have done. There are many ins and outs to this drama involving many thousands of displaced, desperate people seeking safety, but the bottom line is that they are just people, homo sapiens like us, who need a helping hand. We can either offer help or turn our backs on them (and there are arguments to be made for either thing), but we have to decide. The article on pages 34/35 points out the meanness of the Spanish authorities' asylum policy. To let in a few hundred here and there because you have no other choice, you might as well seal the border. Or elect a different government with a different approach.

One thing we could do to help these people in much larger numbers is to stop treating their countries as political battlegrounds. The Russians support one side, the Americans the other. In the middle are normal people who just want to get on with their lives and who would prefer to experience Catalonia during a memorable holiday, not as a final refuge .

Life as a refugee Pages 28-35
It is not easy being an asylum seeker or refugee. On the one hand, the application process is long and tortuous and far from a forgone conclusion. At the same time, the process of integration into a society that may bear little resemblance to your own is challenging to say the least. Add to this a lack of resources and unwelcome authorities in the country you have chosen to seek refuge and it is clearly an unenviable position to be in. This process is described in this month's magazine, along with some witness statements from people who have been through it. The report ends with an examination of the role of the Spanish state and the harsh criticism it has received for its handling of the migrant crisis by numerous organisations and institutions. It is an issue that affects us all, so check it out and let us know what you think.
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