Tom Stockley considers the migration crisis and contemplates who has the right to land and citizenship.
Photography: Calais Migrant Solidarity
When David Cameron was recently asked in parliament about the Google tax sanctions, he responded with a speech that included the phrase “a bunch of migrants in Calais”. To some, that’s all this humanitarian crisis represents – a “bunch”. Not individual people, with different backgrounds and intentions, but a lump of problems that we should distance ourselves from as much as possible.
However, Chris Bryant MP made the observation that so many of us (including the royal family) have family trees that spread all around the world, often relating to historic migration paths not dissimilar from today – Jewish communities escaping the persecution of WWII, Irish families relocating to avoid the terror of the ‘Troubles’, and middle Eastern victims of countless wars moving to a better life. So, he tackled Mr. Cameron’s comments by saying “we are ALL a bunch of migrants”, a phrase that neatly condenses the truth that we have all arrived here from other locations.
Interestingly, comedian Trevor Noah reverses this concept by talking about how we, as British people, have migrated not just TO Britain but FROM it, colonizing continents from Africa to South America in ways that were often incredibly violent – he sums this up by saying that if South Africa’s border control was as strict in the colonial era as the UK’s is now, it “would’ve saved a lot of pain”.
So while Lesvos, an island the size of Cornwall, continues to allow on average 3000 individuals (fleeing war torn nations) a day, the UK increasingly pushes the idea of closing its borders. The issue of migration and border control is of course a complex one – global populations are growing, and in our lifetime we will have to consider the problems that come with this. But I (and many others) suggest that the way we approach situations such as the Calais Jungle comes down to whether you believe land is owned or should be shared with those who need the peace and safety we take for granted.
The truth is that we have all (at one point or another, whether years or centuries ago) arrived from somewhere to be living our lives now, and maybe that’s a luxury that should be offered to more people. Some small steps to take can be found in the various organisations trying to make a difference to the lives of the displaced community in Calais – check out www.supportrefugees.org.uk, www.calaismigrantsolidarity.wordpress.com and www.calaid.co.uk (where you can find your nearest drop-off point to donate food and clothes).