Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Today's War brings Tomorrow's Refugees

Today, as I write, innocent Libyan people, young and old, are still dying. The propaganda war seeps around the world. The tenor of the media reporting, however, has become more hopeful. Green Square has been renamed Martyrs Square. Peace cannot come soon enough.

We British people will surely be relieved to hear that is all over, and we will be able to “tick that one off”. Unless we are also Libyan, or have family in that country, Libya will simply disappear from our television sets for now.
There is no doubt that our personal and societal attitudes are heavily influenced by snippets of information. We are all guilty of constructing our reaction to foreign people from a matrix of extraneous suppositions.

Today’s war brings tomorrows refugees. As a nation we are not prepared to receive these hurting people. “It is alright, as long as they stay where they are.”
People seeking asylum from terror in the UK have been demonised by inaccurate reporting. They are too often regarded as sponging migrants, rather than folk fleeing from violence, including torture and rape. Our government is pursuing a policy of excluding as many foreigners as possible, which includes many of those who desperately sought safety in the UK.
The asylum system works by assuming that all claimants are lying, until they can substantiate their story. That takes time, (which is often not granted), and access to specialist lawyers, and unbiased translation. Meanwhile, amidst the political culture of cutting every aspect of our social fabric, the number of asylum specialist lawyers has dwindled, and the organisations which support those seeking sanctuary in British cities have lost their funding.
This is why, as Christians amongst other people of faith and humanity, we need to care for the refugees who arrive in the UK. It is not uncommon for asylum seekers to have to ask ‘what country they are in?’ and ‘what language is being spoken?’ They need help with all the most basic things of life, just to survive, and many church folk are doing just that. The Churches Refugee Network can be accessed through the Joint Public Issues Team, and exists to support anyone in our churches who is serving the sanctuary seekers.