Drone footage of Homs in Syria published today shows apocalyptic scenes of a city in ruins after five years of ravaging and relentless war that has claimed the lives of over 250,000 people. The video confirms the sheer and irrefutable destruction that has engulfed the third largest city of the country, now almost razed to the ground. It also accentuates the cold and insensitive words spoken by our Prime Minister David Cameron in last week’s reprehensible installment of PMQs when he referred to people escaping the horrors of war similar to those displayed in this footage as merely a “bunch of migrants”.
As another edition of PMQs approaches this afternoon, let me point out to Cameron that those “bunch of migrants” living in the squalid conditions of Calais didn’t suddenly wake up one morning and decide they were going to stroll over to France and Britain for croissants and a cup of tea. It was the annihilation of their homes and livelihoods that is evident from these shattering scenes of Homs, and the deaths of precious family members, that have driven hundreds of thousands to make that death-defying journey into Europe.
I would also like to reiterate to our honourable PM that the “bunch of migrants” he was referring to in Calais are made up of many unaccompanied children, many close in age to the young Aylan Kurdi, whose lifeless body washed up on the shore of the Aegean prompted Cameron to voice his commiseration and claim he was “deeply moved”. Deeply perhaps, but clearly not moved enough to take in 3,000 orphaned refugee children scattered in camps across Europe, many of whom have lost parents in war-torn countries.
This video footage should be a stark reminder to Cameron and those sitting beside him in the Commons that countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have become uninhabitable places of fear, murder and anarchy. The “bunch” that Cameron so brazenly referred to last week – that demonised “swarm” who we are supposed to fear coming into our country - have run away from a merciless murderer known as Bashar al Assad or escaped the knife-wielding “Jihadi Johns” of Isis whose victims have predominantly been the Arabs of Iraq and Syria.
It is easy to disregard those running away from the corrupt government forces of Afghanistan and the Taliban, as international interest in the country wanes and most foreign troops are long gone. When our media turns its lenses away, however, the people remain.
Britain and other nations with similarly imperialist histories have been quick to beat the drums of war by engaging in military action in countries like Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, but have reacted with very little urgency in trying to end the turmoil in those nations. The very least our leaders can and should do, if not take responsibility for some of the chaos ensuing for a number of years in the aforementioned countries, is address those who are in pursuit of safety and economic necessity with the basic human etiquette we all deserve.
My final reminder for our Prime Minister is that, those “bunch of migrants” are an extraordinary set of individuals to have made that treacherous journey, risking their lives, losing their valuables to criminals along the way and most tragically of all seeing their dearest drown at sea. To still have the resolve and fortitude to want to seek a future in a foreign land with numerous impediments is almost superhumanly courageous.
Indeed, it sounds very much to me like those are the “bunch” of people Britain should be made up of: determined, self-sacrificing people who continue to smile – and to hope – in the midst of unthinkable adversity.
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