Sunday, October 05, 2014

Pony Express

WITH the Tories trumpeting their intention to slash benefits and tear up the European Convention on Human Rights, and their papers plainly convinced they're on a winner, we have to face two of the less pleasant features of British politics.

One is the readiness of too many people to forgive and forget whatever our rulers are doing to us, so long as we are persuaded it is doing things a damn sight worse to "them", the less deserving poor, and "foreigners"  (that category can be extended to include "the enemy within", whom Thatcher was preparing to denounce before the Brighton bombing). This is what some are satisfied and even proud to call "British justice".

The other is that whatever contrary facts or pictures of reality you try to raise will only exasperate those who are already, while waxing indignant, comfortable in their prejudice.  It is thus out of a sense of duty to their readers and viewers that some media endeavour to keep nurturing ignorance and are reluctant to admit anything which might disturb it.

As my fellow blogger Tom Pride reveals this week:

The Daily Express - like most of the UK press - doesn't like to be criticised. And - like most of the UK press - it doesn't like to give a right of reply to anyone, not even to respected organisations such as the British Red Cross.

That's why the newspaper is refusing to publish a joint letter from the British Red Cross, Refugee Action and the Refugee Council which is critical of it. This is the letter the Daily Express doesn’t want you to see. So please share it as widely as possible.

Dear Sir,

The stream of aggressive stories about asylum seekers appearing in this paper in recent days is of serious concern to all of us who work with and support people fleeing persecution.
Your readers would be forgiven for thinking the UK is being flooded by asylum seekers. This couldn’t be further from the truth, with asylum applications around the 23,000 mark a year the UK is home to less than 1 per cent of the world’s refugees and takes proportionately below the EU average.

To characterise the people housed in Folkestone as having a ‘lovely break’ by the sea that Brits would be envious of is hugely misleading and dangerous.

Asylum seekers are people who have often fled horrifying experiences in their home countries. Some have been raped. Some have been tortured. Many have witnessed the death of a loved one. Be assured, people who have suffered extreme trauma and whose lives are hanging in the balance will not be focusing on the sea view of temporary room.

There are no refugee visas available for people fleeing persecution. The fact that people are forced to travel clandestinely is recognised within the Refugee Convention and British Law. Entering Britain illegally can be a necessity; it is not an indication of the validity of someone’s asylum claim.
Additionally, appealing a refusal does not indicate someone cheating the system. Decisions on asylum claims can be life or death and the appeal overturn rate shows the Government frequently gets it wrong the first time.

Stirring up hostility against asylum seekers is as unwelcome as it is unsavoury in a country with a proud tradition of protecting refugees.

Maurice Wren, Chief Executive, Refugee Council
 Mike Adamson, Acting Chief Executive, British Red Cross
 Dave Garratt, Chief Executive, Refugee Action


Which reminds me, talking of human rights, I'm sure we'll be hearing they are safe in the Con Dem government's hands, but I wonder how the government is getting on with its Lobbying Bill, not the price of big business lobbying, but the law which besides requiring trade unions hand over lists of their members, restricts what charities like the Red Cross can spend or do on putting their views across.

That could be handy before the elections coming up.

But hang on. Besides his ownership of the Express, over whose contents he modestly disclaims control, Richard "Dirty" Desmond likes to be known for his charitable works. He started up the Health Lottery, and has even donated to the Labour Party. Perhaps he will come out against what the government is doing?  Not that I'm holding my breath.

That pony?  Pony and trap, cockney rhyming slang. 

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