Peter Crawford, Reader at Barrow Gurney and Flax Bourton, shares his thoughts on the continued plight of refugees attempting to travel to Europe.
A friend recently sent me one of those provocative emails. Perhaps you know the kind: lots of different type-faces and colours. A series of random comments around a theme, not necessarily following logic to come to a conclusion and a challenge to those reading it. The kind that the chap in their cups in the pub voices incessantly with ever stronger finger-brandishing. That kind.
This one was about the population movement “flooding the gates of Western Europe” at the moment. Had I noticed how “all the people making up this tide are not the fold who naturally would form the oppressed groups in their own countries – the children, the women, the religious minorities – but are in fact fit, young men – terrorists in disguise?” Well I can’t say that I had noticed; and I don’t like emails of this sort, but it did make me think. As I suspect many of us have been thinking recently.
Populations have moved since time immemorial. They have moved for reasons of safety, of perceived opportunity, of preference. Many retireees have moved to Spain or France to live, with dramatic effect on communities there. Or think of the 30-somethings from our villages. I know of four who are either currently living around the world, or have had least tried it and since returned to the UK. And how many of our 30-somethings are living within 40 miles of us? Not so far now, but in my Grandfather’s time, 40 miles was essentially goodbye for ever.
We are a restless species, always looking to better ourselves. And very often, our own betterment is another’s enriching.
But what of these fit, young men? I have two Canadian family friends who can trace their North-American roots back to the early 20th century. And in each case, it was the men who came first, leaving their wives or sweethearts in the ‘old country’ until they had cleared their lot, built their house, reaped their first harvest, made some cash. It was what men did back then. Fares were expensive, even legitimate ones, and they built their new lives and their families ‘in installments’. Perhaps the pattern is deeply rooted; perhaps this is universal.
I am troubled and perplexed by the problem of Europe’s influx, as so many obviously are. But it will not go away, that is for sure. Higher fences and ever stronger gates build only fear on one side and envy and resentment on the other.
If I was a fit, young man, faced with fear or simply a chance to better my lot and that of my hoped-for children, I think it’s likely that I would be trying to climb over a fence too. So who am I to criticise those who do just that?