Recently we woke up to the tragic news that Tommy Robinson has left the UK and has moved to Spain to seek asylum. Of course, that news is not at all tragic it is in fact absolutely fantastic and the nation’s collective ecstasy is only slightly tainted by remorse that Spain now have the chore of dealing with him. Of course, this was met with some rather unsavoury comments directed at Mr Robinson. Given Boris’ new quarantine rules at least we can rest assured that, regardless of the outcome of his application, he won’t be back for at least 2 weeks.
This revelation got me thinking quite a lot. I am quite active on social media, I spend a lot of time reading through threads and engaging in debates with people who are against the Black Lives Matter movement, and also some people who are just out and out racist. This latest admission from Tommy Robinson just reinforced in me how delicate arguments against the care of people can be.
The refugee crisis, as it is often referred to, is truly tragic. The scenes are harrowing, images of people, crammed into inflatable boats, looking for one thing, a better life. These people are met with abhorrent abuse, harsh and untrue generalisations and general contempt. They are coming over here and taking our jobs are the tamest chants, the more extreme ones claim these people are terrorists. Scarcely do we believe that these people are genuine refugees, who need a roof over their head, who want the best for their family, who want to prosper and make a better life.
Those who make it across the channel in the small rubber dinghies are the lucky ones, for every person that arrives there are those who have tried, and paid with their lives. There are young children, who have seen their family members killed in front of them, who have only the clothes on their back and a faint belief that if their inflatable boat survives the 21 miles across the channel, their life may, just may, improve. Young children who have lived lives we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemies.
Then, upon arrival, they are placed at the bottom of the social ladder, ridiculed and mocked on social media, subject to abuse in the streets, told to go back to where they came from. They are the subject of the hateful speeches of people like Tommy Robinson. They are called terrorists and rapists, told that they are benefits scroungers and a “drain” on our country.
It can be hard for us to relate to these people, this affects our approach as well. Many of us don’t know what it’s like to be in their shoes. Their portrayal in the media as well as the ramblings of far-right activists weaponizes our insecurity. We are scared of these people because we don’t know anything about them. What Tommy Robinson has done by fleeing the country because he fears for his family’s safety resonates with all of us, we would all do anything it takes to protect those we love. This has taught us all a very valuable lesson; these people aren’t dangerous, they aren’t scroungers, they aren’t a drain on our society, they are just like us.