Thursday, November 25, 2021


In May 2018 I curated an art exhibition entitled 'Across the Seas' in which works by two dozen artists, dealing with human migration, were exhibited. The online catalogue shows it all. Among the works was The List, by Banu Cennetoglu, comprising 48 sheets of paper on which were printed the names of 33,293 people who had died trying to reach Europe. You can download it here.

In a quiet moment, I noticed there was just one woman in the gallery, standing in front of The List, quietly weeping, tears on her cheek.

Yesterday we saw the crocodile tears of our Prime Minister and his Home Secretary as they sought to blame the French and the so-called 'criminal gangs' of 'people smugglers'. Anything but admit that the deaths in the English Channel that afternoon were the direct result of their policy.

The blood of these desperate men, women and children, are on our politicians' hands. But not on their hands alone. Blame, responsibility, culpability, is shared by every citizen who has supported Mr Johnson and Ms Patel, their Conservative Party and the UK Government. And more than that, blame, responsibility and culpability must be shared by every citizen who has supported policies of immigration control, even the very concept of borders as barriers to human movement.

The solution to the immediate crisis in the Channel is obvious: give would-be migrants train and ferry tickets. Human lives come first and then we can work out what to do with them.

The UK could be the world's ethical leader rather than a pariah, shaming other countries into action. As it is, we are shamed, having taken far fewer migrants than most of our European neighbours, never mind poorer countries such as Lebanon and Jordan. We could open our borders and welcome the stranger. 

The coming decades are going to see migration forced by climate change on a scale that has not yet entered the consciousness of most people. From North Africa, across the Middle East and through much of South Asia, a vast swathe of land will become effectively uninhabitable within the lifetimes of today's children. The British Isles, its climate tempered by ocean currents, will remain a green and pleasant land.

We need to get used to a very different world. We need, today, to choose between life or genocide.


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