There’s an image going round the internet at the moment. Have you seen it? It’s a photograph from a freelance photographer of one of the refugees from Syria, a father, holding his children in his arms, another adult, maybe his wife, leaning in towards him with head bowed. Behind him are other refugees, blurred out of focus, and the great, grey sea. His face is etched with grief, horror, relief and a wild, grim desperation. This man is being held up as the true face of the refugees – a whole horde of humanity determinedly, desperately escaping untenable circumstances in their home country.
How can you look at his face and see an unwelcome scrounger? Can you imagine packing up your family, taking the handful of things you can carry and leaving the home you know, the country you grew up in, your extended family and community to take a chance on an unknown country, a strange language, an unfamiliar culture – can you imagine doing any of that unless your life utterly depended upon it?
I feel sick when I read or hear about these camps in Calais, when I see photos of the people suffering there. We’re not a big country, God knows, but can’t we be a hospitable one? Give people a chance? Maybe swap some refugees eager to earn a living for some of our natives who are less so… (yes, I am joking. Sort of)
Oxfordshire, or at least our little bit of it, is not very diverse. Primarily white and middle class you might be excused for thinking us insular and ignorant, but we’re not. Our hearts ache for everybody escaping terrors we can never imagine. I doubt my little blog post can do much. I’m trying to make some other contributions too. But if all I do is direct you to this image, which you may not have seen, then that is enough. This man’s face speaks volumes more than my paltry words ever could.