Letters: Pity the container migrants, but don’t let them in

These letters appear in the August 20 edition of The Independent

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We can all share Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s compassion for the unfortunate migrants found in a container at Tilbury docks (18 August), but it is wrong to paint them as entirely innocent. 

They were complicit in a criminal act. They paid to be transported in a way that they knew was dangerous and illegal. They did not stop at the first country that could offer them asylum but travelled on to Britain. To offer them asylum now would be a slap in the face to all those asylum seekers who use the legal channels.

Of course we should accept a certain number of asylum seekers based on due process. We should not feel we have to accept every illegal immigrant who washes up on our shores with a desperate story. That will just encourage more illegal immigration.

Paul Sloane
Camberley,  Surrey


Yasmin Alibhai-Brown points to the world’s gross inequalities, one consequence of which is the desperate attempts by so many people to enter Europe. She ends by writing: “No other issue leaves me feeling so unutterably hopeless.”  

In The Gambia, where we have been working for the past 30 years, we see young men either climbing into flimsy boats and many drowning at sea or dying of starvation as they attempt to cross the Sahara on foot.

We think we have come up with two potential solutions. International development has rightly tended to focus on women’s development over the last 30 years. Listen to Justine Greening talking about the importance of women’s and girls’ education. But we have forgotten the hundreds of thousands of young men who are on the streets of Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Nigeria and The Gambia. We estimate that only 10 per cent of men are in employment five years after leaving school.

We are embarking on a programme of supporting business entrepreneurship, thus creating wealth and employment, and simultaneously encouraging corporate social responsibility among thriving businesses in The Gambia, to get away from the constant and unsustainable dependence on outside aid.

The focus has got to shift. We hope it works.

Dr Nick Maurice
Director, Marlborough Brandt Group
Marlborough, Wiltshire


‘Soft’ subjects seem  to be harder

In your editorial on A-level results (15 August) you suggest that “more pupils were encouraged to take tougher subjects like science and maths this year”. A sign of how pervasive is this misperception of “tough” and “soft” subjects is that even a paper as objective as The Independent makes this observation despite publishing evidence to the contrary on another page.

Your breakdown of results by subject reveals the proportion achieving A* or A as, for selected “tougher” subjects: maths 42.1%, chemistry 32.6%, physics 30.6%, biology 27.5%. And for selected “easier” subjects: English 20.0%, sociology 18.3%, business 14.6%, drama 14.5%.

Might someone explain why a much smaller proportion of students achieve A* or A in the “soft” arts, humanities and social sciences than in the “hard” maths and physical sciences?

Dr Giles Hooper
University of Liverpool


Among the comments in your A-level results coverage regarding the increased uptake of maths and science, I was particularly saddened by the comment attributed to John Cridland about the poor take-up of languages.

My son is lucky enough to attend Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys School (Habs) and was one of 11 boys to have completed GCSE Italian this year. As only two boys have opted to continue Italian at A-level, the school will not run the course.

If a school of Habs’ almost limitless resources is taking this stance, I imagine there is little hope of the state sector doing better. The end of minority language teaching at A-level is nigh.

John Baines
Radlett, Hertfordshire


Met committed to fight corruption

Your article “Secret internal police report points to ‘highly corrupt cells in the Met’” (8 August) paints an overly negative picture of our efforts to tackle corruption. I would like to reassure your readers and the public of London that the Met is, and was, totally committed to thwarting the threat posed by corruption.

What your article fails to make plainly clear is that the three former officers referred to were in fact all thoroughly investigated and charged with serious offences, and the Crown Prosecution Service believed there to be sufficient evidence to put before a jury. That in itself demonstrates both ability and a willingness to tackle crime within our ranks.

The Met’s early approach to tackling corruption in the 1990s was brave, innovative and bold. It took the tactics we used to tackle serious and organised crime and used them against police officers, who were themselves experienced and street-wise detectives. This method had successes and transformed our anti-corruption approach. 

There can be no finishing line when tackling corruption within the Met. So while the corruption we face has changed over the past decade, so have our tactics. Our determination and commitment, for the good of Londoners and the honest hard-working men and women of the Met, to tackling corrupt staff and those who seek to corrupt them will never diminish.

Craig Mackey
Deputy Commissioner
Metropolitan Police


Mysteries of the Cliff Richard raid

It is clear that South Yorkshire Police gave the BBC advance notice of the raid on Sir Cliff Richard’s Sunningdale home and that Sir Cliff knew nothing of it until he saw the media coverage. This is deplorable and requires a full explanation by both the police and the BBC.

Searches for financial records in cases of suspected fraud are one thing, but what possible evidence did the police expect to find in Berkshire of an alleged assault 29 years ago in a stadium 175 miles away in Sheffield? 

And what evidence did SYP place before a magistrate to justify the search warrant and to seek it without notice to Sir Cliff? In several recent cases the High Court has drawn attention to the need for courts to be more circumspect in considering such applications, made without the other side being present to rebut or question any assertion made to support the application.

Sir Cliff has stated that he will co-operate with the police if they wish to speak to him. Will the police, in their turn, be transparent over their investigation? 

David Lamming
Boxford, Suffolk


Circumcision rituals across the world

You report on an outbreak of tribal bellicosity in Western Kenya (13 August). Members of the Bukusu tribe have felt so elevated by their feast of circumcision as to have forced the procedure on males of the neighbouring Turkana tribe, greatly to the latter’s annoyance.

However, before rushing into judgement on the motives of the Bukusu, we must ask: is this morally any different from the routine, legal, and similarly unconsensual prepucectomies carried out by parents on their infant male offspring in western countries?

David Hamilton


You report (18 August) on the UK’s first specialist FGM clinic.

While this initiative is timely and welcome, it is important to draw  attention to the tireless  work of Comfort Momoh MBE, who has been caring for victims of FGM at her dedicated African Well Woman Clinic at Guy’s Hospital and educating health professionals for around two decades.

Dr Rowena Fieldhouse
London SE21


Farage wobbles  on sovereignty

I had always supposed that Nigel Farage believed in the sovereignty of the British Parliament, and that that was the basis of his opposition to the EU; however, on 15 August he introduced a new doctrine: “Ukip”, he says, “believes in direct democracy: that is, letting the people decide.”

Later on he says: “It is a basic issue of democracy which I believe should be decided by the people and not bureaucrats”; but this is not the way our constitution works. Perhaps Mr Farage needs to re-read Bagehot.

John Dakin
Toddington, Bedfordshire


North-south divide in the pub

If it makes Charles Garth (letter, 19 August) feel better about being charged more for beer in Lancashire because he was a “southern toff”, I was once in a pub in Wembley which was filling up with northern rugby league fans in town for the Challenge Cup Final.

I overheard the manager telling one of his staff to “charge the northerners an extra quid a pint. They expect it to be more expensive in London so they won’t say anything”. Sure enough, the poor punter handed over his cash without complaint. I had to intervene by pointing out the price list next to the bar.

It seems that, in pubs at least, we are all monetarily vulnerable to ridiculous stereotypes.

Michael O’Hare
Northwood, Middlesex