I’m back on board Blackbird after some gallivanting and it is lovely to be in my dear home. I’m so privileged to have a home and to be free to wander to and from it, travelling abroad where and when I want to. But as with most privileges, we often don’t value what we have and, more importantly, don’t realise that the majority of the world’s inhabitants don’t have that basic freedom of movement.
Since the closure of the Sangatte refugee camp in Calais in 2002, migrating people are still living a precarious life, camping in the squats and sand-dunes along the French coast. Every day, they are harassed and often beaten by the police, neither allowed to stay there, nor allowed to cross the border. It’s the UK Border Agency that pay for this policing.
This harsh policing is reflected along the European borders, that don’t hamper our own movement, but keep ‘Them’ out. We know who ‘They’ are – people from the other side of an invisible and arbitrary line, drawn on the world by a bunch of so-called leaders I certainly didn’t vote for. Turns out that the line stops where the predominantly non-white populations begin.
Money and commodities flow freely of course. Cheap migrant labour can visit for a short while only. Meanwhile, we ‘explore’ and exploit the world freely, taking from it what we want. We use the equivalent of slavery to get our stuff as cheaply as possible from poor countries and when those people unionise at huge personal risk (death squads and ‘disappearances’), we drop them in favour of an even cheaper supply. Our ‘needs’ cause wars over oil, minerals, drugs, cheap food. Yet when someone tries to escape their situation for a better life, they are hunted down, imprisoned and sent back. Instead of fighting for equality across the world, we pursue a policy of greater acquisition and increasing exclusion. Our wealth increases and the walls get higher.
I know this is just another rant against the racist and unjust border controls that are surreptitiously tightening all the time, excluding more and more people. But I don’t know if people think much about the individuals concerned. When we remember those who died in the second world war, for example, I don’t think of the vast numbers (around 60 million I believe) but of the individuals and their own stories of suffering and that of their families. What it might have been like for that single person buried now in this little churchyard. There are about 60 million refugees and displaced people in the world today, who would rather be peacefully at home, like me. And every single one of them has a personal story of a family, loves, hopes and fears.
I think of them, individually, and take some small comfort in knowing that sooner or later, all walls must fall.