Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Saturday 12 February 2005

What has happened to our moral compasses when discussing 'Immigration' and 'Asylum'?

It makes me incredibly sad to read this article, reporting comments by Michael Howard MP, the son of immigrants to this country. It seems that Mr Howard's paternal grandfather may have entered the UK as an 'illegal immigrant' during the 1930s; it seems also that Mr Howard's own father had stated that both his parents had died in Romania when entering the country as 'economic migrants', when [one presumes] he knew that his father was in reality living in London. Mr Howard speculates that this may be why his own father mis-stated the facts, perhaps in order not to jeopardise his own entry, or the continuing [perhaps illegal] residence in the UK of his grandfather.

I cannot possibly imagine what it must have been like in the 1930s for people affected by Nazi policies on racial purity, although I can perhaps get a glimmer of what it might have felt like under the category of 'moral degenerate' or 'deviant', given the fact that I am gay and living in a world where pretty odious things are still being said about homosexuality (even by a few members of our legislature, upper and lower houses). But it gives me real pain to have to recognise that I live in a country where a person whose own grandmother (the wife of the person who may have been an 'illegal immigrant' living in London) perished in Auschwitz feels it necessary, or appropriate to [have to] make the kind of declaration Mr Howard [feels he] has [been forced into], possibly to de-fuse the 'revelation' which someone (perhaps a journalist, perhaps a political rival) may have been about to make.

Even though I cannot put myself in the place of a Jew living in Europe in the 1930s, I'm afraid I can well understand the mounting apprehension when living in areas where my rights were gradually being whittled away; who can deny that they might not have attempted to flee what was happening and, if necessary, attempt to get into another country by fair means or foul, if it meant the difference between survival and death or penury, yes even if that meant telling the odd 'lie' or two. People have to do some pretty awful things in awful situations and who am I, who live pretty comfortably and have travelled and lived in various parts of the world in a sort of coccoon of relative privilege, to criticise what some gentleman may have felt he had to do sixty or seventy years ago. Remember, this man's wife died in Auschwitz in 1944. Their son (Mr Howard's father) would have been some kind of weird son if he had considered, even for a moment, 'denouncing' his father, for whatever reason.

In a broader context Mr Howard is said to have admitted he was not sure if his grandfather would have been allowed into the country under his party's [current immigration and asylum] proposals and is quoted as saying:

"I cannot answer that. We have not yet worked out how the points system will operate."

- what an appalling thing to think, let alone say! If he is not absolutely clear that the rules his Party is proposing would permit a gentleman such as his grandfather fleeing a potential horrific fate then he should consider, with great urgency, clarifying what the draft rules will be and if necessary altering them so that he can be certain that refuge here would not be refused under similar circumstances. I would find it completely unacceptable that such a person be refused admittance, at least temporarily and until the danger back home had passed. Trying to include such people in overall 'quotas' is absolutely disgusting. What is equally disgusting is that the climate now exists in this country when the very notion of such an immigration regime being contemplated by any mainstream political party - and both of the two main parties are flirting with this notion in their different ways - is not condemned outright by all right-thinking people. I can understand that it is necessary to address the fears of some sectors of the population, who may or may not be 'bigotted' or 'racist' in their views, but this should not include such vile accommodation of such views.

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