An allegory on asylum

This piece was first published in the East Anglian Daily Times as a commentary on the county’s and the country’s attitudes to asylum seekers. Some of those commenting below the line conflated the issue with immigration (as the Government has also chosen to) but there you go – you can’t win them all.

Oh those scrounging bee eaters.

I can’t help but be driven to the point of fury on reading that these colourful creatures have deigned to flap their way across the Channel and – whatever next – to feed and rest on our shores.

Ten of them were spotted last week flying over Minsmere before settling down to guzzle up lovely English insects. Yep, that’s right, effectively taking food out of our native birds’ mouths.

The jaw-dropping temerity of it all.

Thankfully scores of good East Anglian people soon arrived to document the event and presumably try to push them back towards Europe with rolled-up newspapers and a rousing chorus of the National Anthem.

And a good job too, no doubt they’d soon move in and start taking our precious nesting spaces – even though hard-working Mr and Mrs Blue Tit have been on a waiting list for the best part of 18 months.

From looking at one of the less sprightly bee-eaters, he was only here for medical treatment.

Perhaps, I think clutching my Big Book of British Birds, we need some kind of net that can be strung around the coast to bring this situation to a swift (no pun intended) conclusion. Maybe those bee eaters would think twice about scrounging from our bird feeders if their journey culminated in imprisonment, confusion and separation from loved ones.

Yes, that’s the way, stiffen the border, pull up the drawbridge, don’t let them in.

But… imagining the sound of feathered bodies thwacking into the coastal net or returning sadly from whence they came only to plunge exhausted into the sea, I can’t help but feel guilty.

Perhaps what is really needed is a big net on the other side of the Channel too, to stop any of those bee-eaters piling over here in the first place (although there obviously would have to be some kind of system to allow proper British birds like turtle doves and robins to reach their holiday homes safely).

It will also have to be a really fine net, because of course, they are not the only ones – we mustn’t forget about all the hummingbird hawk moths. The Daily Mail is probably reporting now on a family of them ensconced in a five bedroom mansion in Chelsea while our poor native moths have to make do with the sock drawer and banging into naked lightbulbs.

Of course, the real reason that these bee eaters make this treacherous trip is because of factors that are beyond their control.

If their oh-so foreign calls of “tree-tree-tree-tree” could be interpreted they would no doubt explain that man-made climate change has drastically altered their flight patterns. Perhaps they might even lament being pushed out of their homes by less tolerant birds – birds who threaten to lop off their heads and refuse to let lady bee-eaters go to bee-eater school or drive tiny bee-eater cars.

But, as we stand behind our newly secure borders, such complicated problems are easier to dismiss aren’t they?

OK long, drawn-out allegory over. But there is a serious point here, and one that does needs to be dealt with.

Because Britain, which has a proud reputation for caring and sheltering those most in need, is in danger of standing by and failing Syrian children and rape victims in what is the biggest humanitarian catastrophe of a generation.

In a month that has seen the sad passing of Sir Nicholas Winton, it is now vital that the country revives the spirit of the Kinder transport that saved thousands of children (including those who were sheltered in Suffolk) from the horror of the Nazis and allow refugees to settle here in safety.

The Government has of course provided aid to the Syrian refugees, who are thought to number in the region of 4 million.

This is of course commendable, but a refusal to separate refugees and asylum seekers from a target-driven immigration policy (don’t get me started) means the Government have only accepted a measly 140 Syrian refugees via the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR), which has identified the most vulnerable.

I find it hard to believe a country (both its Government and its people) that acted with such benevolence and kindness in 1938 could now stand behind fictional borders when so many people are in need.

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