I spent most of this morning on Brighton Beach.
No, not sunning myself. But supporting a wonderful and moving event organised brilliantly at short notice by Amnesty, entitled #dontletthemdrown
It was in response to the appalling tragedies in the Mediterranean this week where hundreds of men, women & children fleeing their war-torn countries had drowned after their people smugglers’ overloaded boats capsized.
Amnesty arranged for a hundred people to volunteer to be put in body bags on the beach – to reproduce the shocking reality of what the cruel immigration and asylum policies of the EU governments really mean. It was of course the EU that recently withdrew its rescue boats from the area, claiming that “it only encouraged them” to know they would be rescued.
How callous and how ill-informed were those claims. The idea that these desperate people weighed up the possibility of getting benefits in EU countries against the likelihood of rescue if their boat capsized shows a total lack of understanding of the motivation of people seeking asylum.
Far from being too “soft”, our immigration & asylum system is inhumane, undemocratic and discriminatory – with the rich being able to enter the country more or less at will, while everyone else has to struggle through byzantine form-filling, humiliating investigations and Kafka-esque decision-making.
A friend of mine has been fighting for well over a year to bring her husband to this country so they can live together. He is from Macedonia – if he was rich, it would all be fine. But he is not, so he cannot come. It is awful and unfair.
I feel passionately that we have to aim eventually to allow people to live where they wish – Brits abroad, or others coming here. That may not be realistic in the short term as we have to try and build up our public services to cope after years of them being run down. And we have to do more to help people stay in their own country (which most want to do anyway) by not invading their countries, by not making them unliveable in due to our voracious use of fossil fuels causing climate change, and by not plundering their economies so that it is hard for people there to make a living.
It was good to see Labour & Liberal Democrat candidates from Kemptown there this morning, and of course the ubiquitous Caroline Lucas, and Chris Hawtree, Green PPC for Hove.