Politicians on both sides of the House of Commons and a number of media outlets would have you believe that this country is suffering a crisis of immigration, solvable only by draconian restrictions on people’s internationally recognised right to seek asylum in any safe country.
Do not believe it. The overall number of asylum seekers is by no means the highest in recent years (last year’s figures were significantly distorted by the pandemic). The large majority – some 80 per cent – of asylum seekers have their application granted. The UK is only 14th in Europe in the number of asylum seekers per head of our population.
These are not – as the Home Secretary has claimed – “economic” migrants. The right to flee from your country in fear for your life and seek refuge in any other country – not necessarily the first you come to – is enshrined in international law. Open borders don’t create migration. War, famine, climate change and political tyranny do that – some of it fed by Western countries that sell arms indiscriminately to murderous regimes.
Those migrants who do make it here, in spite of our long delay or removal of legal processes, often come because “we were there”, and taught them to regard Britain as the Mother Country. All this is ‘politics’.
When it comes to British people, it is quite another matter.
Despite a small number of people who say “We’re full” (despite the obvious evidence of losing 3m+ EU citizens and having previously unknown vacancies in the care, transport, catering and other industries), and others who object in principle to the age-old tendency of other nationalities (oddly excluding our own) to seek greener grass in other countries, we are a welcoming nation.
Lichfield, undoubtedly, shows an extraordinary hospitality to people from outside. Those few who have come here as part of formal governmental resettlement schemes, from Syria and Afghanistan, for example, have aroused warmth and curiosity and sympathy.
Some of our most recent Afghan arrivals, of course, are here because they may have formed a key part of the British Army’s role in their country, which put all refugees and their families at risk from the extremist Taliban government. They remain at risk, both those who are here and their remaining families in Afghanistan.
We at Lichfield District City of Sanctuary want to say “Thank you” to all those in the area who are stepping up to help us give our new neighbours a chance to make a new life here – a re-start forced on them by circumstances beyond their control. But this is a two-way transaction. We believe newcomers of all types and backgrounds bring to our community a diversity of culture and experience that enriches the entire community.
So “Thank you” to you. And “Thank you” to them!
Nigel Gann, Secretary, Lichfield City of Sanctuary
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