Most Bulgarians in Britain are working hard, legally, in business
Most Bulgarians in Britain are working hard, legally, in business
Sir: I am a Bulgarian, who has been residing in the UK under the provisions of the business visa scheme for the last five years. I have been well accepted into English society and I feel very much at home here. However I am worried about the implications of the political scandals involving Bulgarians in this country (report, 2 April).
The Bulgarians in the UK who I know are genuine, self-employed people who are working as per their applications, paying their taxes and contributing to English society as much as any other self-employed person does. They struggle in the beginning because they are prepared to do the jobs which others avoid, but they are doing their best to be successful in this country and to follow the rules. We are not participants in any scam. We are not refugees who take social benefits and work at the same time, without the right to do so. We are not criminals.
In a few weeks time the resignation of Beverley Hughes will be forgotten, but when people hear the word "Bulgarian" they will think "scam", they will think "somebody who used our system to come to this country and do God knows what". But for most of us this is not the case. Most of us came to the UK legally and stayed legally.
Maybe there were some fraudulent applications in Bulgaria, and maybe people tried to abuse the system. But the English solicitors also abused the system with massive advertising campaigns in Bulgaria to promote a way into the UK. And people followed, just as in any other advertising campaign, anywhere in the world.
I just hope that not all Bulgarians will be tarnished, because this may affect our lives, our businesses, our relationships, our face in English society and put a scar on everything that we have built so far.
Lesson of Fallujah: Iraq is not conquered
Sir: In a scene that conjures up memories of Mogadishu, Somalia, where Americans were murdered and dragged through the streets, the grisly killing of four American private security guards in Fallujah has reverberated throughout the Western media (report 2 April), giving rise to two reactions: plain horror and self-righteous rage. The former emanates from ordinary Americans and their European counterparts, who wonder if this is how a "liberated" people is supposed to act. The latter is being generated by the American administration. While George Bush declared that we'd "stay the course", US administrator, Paul Bremer, promised reprisals.
The occupation of Iraq could last 20 to 30 years. Some areas, like Fallujah, may never be "pacified". Are Americans willing to spend what it takes in lives as well as treasure to hunt down all the young "nihilists" of Iraq and either kill or jail them - and turn the rest into model citizens?
Bush, Blair and their neo-con friends echoed every lie dished out by the American and British administrations: the WMD long since destroyed, the links to al-Qa'ida and 11 September that existed only in their imaginations, the alleged military "threat" posed by Saddam that was merely a projection of our own relentlessly aggressive intentions. They lied us into war, and now we're supposed to pay whatever it takes to save their honour and their political necks.
The lessons of Fallujah are plain as day: Iraq isn't conquered, and can't be governed, at least not by us. If we want to avoid ugly incidents such as this one, we can make the rational choice and get out - while the going is good.
Sir: What a predictable nightmare Bush and Blair have dragged us into. We were assured before the war that coalition forces would be greeted with unalloyed gratitude from the Iraqi population, that the land was awash with WMD, and that when Saddam was arrested or killed that any "Ba-athist" remnants would accept defeat, lay down their arms and embrace "freedom".
Little wonder then, that the critics of the war are barely able to contain their schadenfreude at having been proved right in virtually all of their assertions; the world is considered by many to be more unsafe, Muslims feel further alienation, Iraq is awash with terrorists, the cost of the occupation is breathtaking, the death toll is appalling, and global feelings of anti-Americanism are increasing.
The message that the horrific butchery near Fallujah sent out is unambiguous and devastating to those that would seek to profit from this conflict. This threat of a violent demise seems to apply whether you are working for a tiny Scandinavian engineering firm, or for one of the groups of mercenaries that now seek to protect the US troops.
Sir: Firstly I'd like to send my sincere condolences to the families of the four men who were brutally killed in Fallujah on Wednesday. It saddens and scares me to think that humans are capable of such brutal acts.
The people who carried out these acts of brutality are nothing more than Saddam loyalists. They want to make Iraq as unstable as possible by driving fear into anyone who attempts to make Iraq a democratic and stable place and they will stop at absolutely nothing. I would like to stress that the majority of Iraqis condone these acts of violence.
As an Iraqi myself, I feel that Iraq will never become stable until Saddam is tried and sentenced, as his loyalists will not rest until he is back in power. So if George Bush, Tony Blair and Paul Bremer would like to see a stable Iraq they should really be dealing with Saddam.
After all, wasn't it Mr Bush who said "The capture of this man is crucial to the rise of a free Iraq. It marks the end of the road for him and for all who bullied and killed in his name".
Capturing him is not enough, we need to deal with Saddam himself, and only then will Iraq be free.
Sir: I am not sure why we should be surprised by your report "I saw papers that show US knew al-Qa'ida would attack cities with aeroplanes" (2 April). This is from a BBC report on the G8 summit in Genoa dated 18 July 2001:
"The huge force of officers and equipment which has been assembled to deal with unrest has been spurred on by a warning that supporters of Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden might attempt an air attack on some of the world leaders present. Anti-aircraft missiles have been deployed at the airport, and naval vessels are patrolling the seas."
When are the British and American governments going to admit what they really knew? The current policy merely fuels conspiracy theories.
Sir: In your article on the revelations of Sibel Edmonds (the FBI whistleblower), you add the following rider: "It is impossible at this stage to verify Mrs Edmonds' claims."
Could you imagine adding such a rider to comments made by Condoleeza Rice, or President Bush? If not (as I believe), then why not?
Sir: I read Johann Hari's article, "Prison doesn't have to be a black hole" (31 March) on the train returning from Feltham Young Offenders Institution, where I teach literacy and basic skills. Everything Mr Hari writes is true, as anyone who works in a prison knows.
Not rehabilitating prisoners is dumb indeed. It is also economically, socially and morally wrong. Presumably, the Government, informed by those who have to do with prisoners and the courts, also knows this. Yet the Government is still prepared to spend huge sums of money keeping men and boys behind bars, learning nothing, to come out to wrecked family relationships, often homeless, and with the same lack of basic skills which helped to get them into trouble in the first place.
Feltham still has a long way to go, in my view (though I should mention that the 18-21 year olds have the same access to one-to-one classes as the younger boys).
But the longer I work there, the more I am tantalised by the realisation of prison's potential as a place of rehabilitation and angered by how little is actually achieved.
Sir: Argentina's painful, long-delayed attempt to deal with the political "disappearance" of people in the "dirty war" is still a long way off in many other parts of the world ("Life and death in Argentina", 31 March). For example, in Algeria families are desperate for information about the more than 4,000 people who have "disappeared" there in the last 10 years.
Last December it was announced that the remains of a "disappeared" man - Abed Saidana - had been recognised in a mass grave in the western province of Relizane. However, when the human rights activist Mohamed Smain went there with the gendarmerie in January, it was found that the remains had themselves "disappeared". Algeria's families of the "disappeared" are trapped in a gruelling struggle to obtain the truth about the fate of their relatives - with seemingly no end in sight.
Nobody should have to wait the three decades that Argentinian families have waited for official recognition of their plight.
Country Coordinator Algeria
Amnesty International UK
Sir: To get British people acquainted with foreign tongues, a simple step would be if the BBC would start using subtitles in their news programmes. I find it annoyingly patronising that interviewees are dubbed, usually by English-speaking people in the appropriate accent.
The original sound is seldom toned down, therefore you end up with a most confusing range of noises, which robs those of us who do speak foreign languages of the opportunity to refresh our knowledge or, even better, learn some new words or expressions.
Being Dutch, I am used to hearing other languages, seeing foreign films etc. Having everything neatly served up in English greatly frustrates me. Subtitles would make a vast difference for the younger generation, who would get used to the sounds of French, German, Mandarin, Urdu, whatever, and see the translation simultaneously.
MARIALETTE DE HAAS
Sir: I feel that the Irish government's move to ban smoking in public places must be applauded as yet another brave step in the right direction that our neighbours seem to be making. The smoking ban follows the five euro cent levy on plastic bags used in supermarkets in the Republic, this has cut down on both waste and litter.
In September this year the Irish will also complete their changeover from road speeds in imperial miles per hour (mph) to the logical kilometres an hour (km/h) used worldwide bar in the US and Britain. Whilst we Brits choke in our litter strewn land trying to work our fuel consumption in miles per gallon when we buy fuel by the litre, will the last Irish joke be on us?
Sir: I must say your article about the Archers signature tune (1 April) was the best spoof I've heard since the Guardian announced the existence of the island of San Seriffe back in 1977. It was a parody for our times - all the ingredients were there: the 50-something Brian Eno purporting to know all about youth; the media types, and the daft assertions of both the metropolitan intelligentsia and the "public". It's not true yet, but just give it ten years.
Sir: My daughter has recently given birth to her first child. She lives in the US. The cost to her insurance company was $27,000. The care she received was excellent but no better than she would have had from the NHS. (The food was worse). In one aspect the ante-natal care was slower. She had to wait three weeks for advice from a consultant when diabetes of pregnancy was diagnosed. We in Britain should be aware of the true value for the care we have from the NHS and be prepared to pay for it properly and more realistically.
Sir: Your table of the top and bottom council tax increases (26 March) doesn't tell the whole story. Here in Teignbridge, the gateway to south Devon, through good housekeeping and careful planning, we pegged the increase to just 2.2 per cent - the lowest for any district, borough or city council in Devon and Cornwall and probably well beyond.
In addition, we're investing in children's play areas, upgrading our public toilets and car parks, putting money into affordable housing and, using money from cutting the discount on second home council tax, we're employing community wardens to tackle anti-social behaviour.
Cllr ALAN CONNETT
Teignbridge District Council
Newton Abbot, Devon
Take no notice
Sir: Sadly, Marks and Spencer no longer provide bags with the legend: "To avoid suffocation keep away from children'' (Letters, 31 March and 2 April).