What gives me the right to speak about immigration?

I don’t live in my own country, I am an immigrant. I’ve lived and worked in different countries with people from all over the globe. We were all there to make our lives a little better, for some it was about money. For me it was about my job. As a teacher life in the UK was awful, I wanted to be able to teach and have a better work life balance.

There’s been a lot in the news over the last few weeks about immigration. We now live on Rhodes. A part of Greece but very close to Turkey. We are on the front-line of the European immigration crisis. The islands of the Mediterranean have seen refugee numbers steadily rise in recent years. With the coast of North Africa close by its the only hope for millions being displaced by war and persecution.

According to the UN this is just the start. The main months for refugees to try and make it across to Europe are May to September.

It was only 10 days ago that a boat sank just off our coast. Stories came out of the locals rushing to get people to safety. 3 lives were lost but many more saved as the boat was smashed to pieces on the rocks. A few days later one of those people gave birth to a baby boy and named it after the man who rescued them both.

boat migrant being rescued

A local hero

Just hours earlier a boat had sunk off Italy with hundreds of lives lost. There was an outcry for Europe to do something about what was now being termed a crisis.

At the same time there was a very negative response to what was happening. In the UK there’s an election about to happen and immigration has been on every agenda. Bloggers I follow received negative comments about the boat sinkings as Katie Hopkins wrote in The Sun

Rescue boats? I’d use gunships to stop migrants You may as well set up a Libya to Italy P&O ferry
NO, I don’t care. Show me pictures of coffins, show me bodies floating in water, play violins and show me skinny people looking sad.

I still don’t care. Because in the next minute you’ll show me pictures of aggressive young men at Calais, spreading like norovirus on a cruise ship.

There is a fear about immigration or migrants or refugees. It doesn’t matter which word you use to describe them. These are people who are desperate, they are fighting to survive and running to us for help. There seems to be an impression that we will be overrun and our communities destroyed. That they are some how too different to become a part of our societies.

But our societies are constantly changing and always have been. There have always been people moving around the globe. Last year the UN announced that:

the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people worldwide has, for the first time in the post-World War II era, exceeded 50 million people.

Those figures will continue to rise as the conflicts across Africa and the Middle East continue. I’ve been trying to find a way to explain how I feel about the situation. I just see people who need our help. Benjamin Zephaniah said it much better than me in his recipe:

The British (serves 60 million)

Take some Picts, Celts and Silures

And let them settle,

Then overrun them with Roman conquerors.

Remove the Romans after approximately 400 years

Add lots of Norman French to some

Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Vikings, then stir vigorously.

Mix some hot Chileans, cool Jamaicans, Dominicans,

Trinidadians and Bajans with some Ethiopians, Chinese,

Vietnamese and Sudanese.

Then take a blend of Somalians, Sri Lankans, Nigerians

And Pakistanis,

Combine with some Guyanese

And turn up the heat.

Sprinkle some fresh Indians, Malaysians, Bosnians,

Iraqis and Bangladeshis together with some

Afghans, Spanish, Turkish, Kurdish, Japanese

And Palestinians

Then add to the melting pot.

Leave the ingredients to simmer.

As they mix and blend allow their languages to flourish

Binding them together with English.

Allow time to be cool.

Add some unity, understanding, and respect for the future,

Serve with justice

And enjoy.

Note: All the ingredients are equally important. Treating one ingredient better than another will leave a bitter unpleasant taste.

Warning: An unequal spread of justice will damage the people and cause pain. Give justice and equality to all.

This island Rhodes  though small has itself always taken on board different people and cultures. It was home to the colossus of Rhodes a wonder of the ancient world. It was part of ancient Greece, the ancient Roman empire then later Byzantine.

Next came the Knights Hospitaller with their castles and churches. Then the Ottoman empire and their mosques for the next 4 centuries.

By the time it became Italian in 1912 the old town was a mixture of Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim. In 1943 came the Germans and the Jews were sent to extermination camps. Finally in 1947 this island the rest of the Dodecanese became Greek once more.

Then in  1949, Rhodes was the venue for negotiations between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, concluding with the 1949 Armistice Agreements.

Today it’s a tourist island, with Germans, Italians, British, French and Russians you’ll find Israelis, Arabs and Americans all enjoying the beautiful weather and beaches.

When YOU look across those beautiful blue waters and see the yachts and cruise ships arriving don’t forget that those needing our help are coming. I hope that we as individuals and our countries find a way to make this a safer year for them.

Rhodes harbour

Rhodes harbour welcoming visitors

 

 

 

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