Den brittiska tidskriften The Spectator hör till mina favoriter. Det är lätt att tillbringa någon timme en lördageftermiddag med den. Som prenumerant har jag förvisso tillgång till den digitala versionen, men som läsare föredrar jag papperstidningen även om den kommer i min brevlåda några dagar senare.
I det senaste nummer jag läst (8 november) finns en passionerad attack mot den usla brittiska flyktingpolitiken av Justin Marozzi.
We are in the grip of immigration hysteria. Much of our panic about asylum seekers in Britain is strikingly self-regarding, not least the notion that our island is the destination of choice for most of them. The fact is, it isn’t. Below 1 per cent of the planet’s displaced people are in the UK. We Brits like to think we’re a decent lot, that we do our bit and stand up for the oppressed. We can hold our heads up high, we tell ourselves, exemplars of fair play in a cruel world.
Yet if we look at how other countries handle immigration and refugees, perhaps we would be rather less self-congratulatory. The truth is that we punch well below our weight. What do Pakistan, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have in common — apart from being Muslim? According to the United Nations, they are the world’s top five hosts of refugees. Pakistan alone has 1.6 million. Earlier this year, the UNHCR called on countries to take in an additional 100,000 Syrians in 2015 and 2016. The UK’s response? The Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme. As of August, the total number of Syrians resettled was 50.
How do we compare with our European neighbours, who are supposedly much less of a soft touch? Germany received 127,000 applications for asylum last year, France 65,000, Sweden 54,000 and Britain just 30,000 (Sweden’s population, for the record, is a sixth the size of ours). So not so much Floodgates Britain, Mr Farage, as Fortress Britain. And here it is worth remembering that we are signatories to the 1951 UN convention on refugees, under which asylum is given to those with a ‘well-founded fear of persecution’ in their own countries. There is no shortage of these people, but we seem to have suspiciously few of them here. Statistics aside, this latest bout of British immigration fever reminds me of friends I have worked with during the past decade in the sort of conflict-ravaged countries that produce so many refugees.
When Fatima, my long-suffering Arabic teacher in Baghdad, decided it was time to leave Iraq, it was not the UK she chose, but America, to teach Arabic at a defence institute in California. Forced to seek asylum after raging violence in Baghdad, my Iraqi friend Manaf, a retired diplomat, scholar and Anglophile, found his way to Amarillo, Texas, with his wife. Where was Britain in Iraq’s greatest hour of need? Its approach could be best summed up in the refusal to give asylum to 91 Iraqis who had served as interpreters for British forces. During a visit to Afghanistan in 1996, Hazara warlords were reportedly staging ‘dead dancing’ shows, decapitating prisoners, cauterising the severed necks with oil and watching the corpses stumble around pour encourager les autres.
Eventually, like so many Afghans overcome by the conflict, my translator Arif fled the country. He won a Chevening scholarship and graduated from Stirling University with a Masters in communications. But this isn’t enough to guarantee residency — next year, he’ll learn whether he can stay permanently or be asked to leave. Given the government’s failure to meet its immigration target, it’s people like Arif — from outside the EU — who are at greatest risk of deportation.
Vilken annan tidskrift skulle låta Julie Burchills ex-make Cosmo Landesman recensera hennes nya bok ”Unchosen: The Memoirs of a Philo-Semite” ?
Unchosen is the journalist Julie Burchill’s account of how she — a bright and bratty working-class girl from Bristol — fell in love with the Jewish race. It’s an exhilarating and exasperating mix of the utterly brilliant and the totally bonkers.
Poor Julie — she thought that her teenage dream of marrying a Jewish man had come true when she married me back in the 1980s. Yes, she got her Jew, but the -ish bit was missing. My family and I earn a chapter in her book called ‘Meet the Perverts’ and all I can say is: Oy vey! You think you’re a smart and funny man to be married to — and then you read an ex-wife’s memoir and you wonder: was I that boring?