Quoted in The Bookseller Condeming a Visa Refusal

The rigid UK visa requirements can prove an impossible hurdle for some artists

An Iranian childrens’ book illustrator Ehsan Abdollahi has been denied a visa to visit the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Publishers have branded the decision “disgusting”.

The Bookseller broke the story and I’m quoted in Heloise Wood’s report, commenting for English PEN. Continue reading “Quoted in The Bookseller Condeming a Visa Refusal”

On the ethics of publishing the photo of Aylan Kurdi

We need to be shocked now, so we may demand action from our government now. I think that trumps our squeamishness

Before I mire myself in questions of when and whether to publish shocking images, I should—must—begin by writing about the fact of Aylan Kurdi’s drowning and the refugee crisis in general.  If the central argument for publishing an image of a dead boy is that it ‘gets people discussing the issues’ then I think I have an obligation to do so, even if these thoughts have been stated earlier and more eloquently, elsewhere. Continue reading “On the ethics of publishing the photo of Aylan Kurdi”

Our humanity drowns in the Mediterranean

Should the EU act to save illegal immigrants from drowning in the Mediterranean? Superficially, this question sounds a bit like one of those dilemmas presented by moral philosophers: do you switch the path of the runaway train so it kills one old man instead of a family of six?

But in this case, the question is not a like-for-like, life-for-life comparison. Instead, it boils down to whether we

  1. save the lives of dozens, or perhaps hundreds of illegal immigrants; or
  2. try to save a few million Euros of costs incurred by the Italian navy

… and I suppose, a few million more Euros caused by the inconvenience of being stuck with a boat-load of Africans without identity documents.

Students in ‘Introduction to Ethics’ seminars should not find this example particularly troubling. Since we are not weighing up human lives, a few humane heuristics will see us through. One of those is that if its a choice between people and money, you save the lives. When confronted with someone in clear and present danger, and the power to save them, we should not sit on our hands and watch them drown.

Really, what is so hard about that? Continue reading “Our humanity drowns in the Mediterranean”

Media Fail

To my mind, this poll shows that we are being failed by our media.

Over at the Spectator, Alex Massie analyses an Ipsos-Mori poll on some of the beliefs the British people hold about our country and the way the Government operates.

To pick just one statistic:

Then there’s this doozy: 29% of respondents think the government spends more on unemployment benefits – the Job Seekers’ Allowance – than on pensions. In fact, pensions cost 15 times as much (rightly so!).

Apparently the British public is similarly misinformed about the propoertion of Muslims in the country, the number of immigrants, the budget of the Department for International Development, the rate of teenaged pregancies, and the crime rate.

Massie shies away from calling the British people stupid, though the headline to his post ‘Abandon All Hope’ suggests this is what he thinks.  And clearly this poll shows that we are, indeed, a highly ignorant bunch.

But I think it would be wrong for we the public to take the blame.  To my mind, this poll shows that we are being failed by our media.  Their primary purpose is surely to keep us informed about what is going on in our democracy, and clearly they are not doing that job effectively.  That’s not something that Alex Massie cares to consider in his article.

Good news for Afghani translators

Remember how I blogged about the Afgahni men and women who have acted as translators for British forces should be allowed asylum in the UK?

The Government has said that around 600 translators will be given the right to settle in Britain. That’s a bit of U-turn and its annoying that the media and the public had to mobilise on this issue… but at least the Government has now done the right thing.

Humane Being?

Narrow minded people damn our species

The asylum issue has been marred by groups of people who simply have a narrow perspective on the nature of the world. They see the problem in a typically Anglo-centric fashion, never stopping to consider what is happening in countries that are not their own. It is this narrow-mindedness that is damning the human race as a species.

We can talk about the economic implications of the asylum problem all we like. Critics of the government, and indeed those actually making the decisions, consider only the ‘pull’ factors, the reason people come to this country. They suggest we are a soft touch, that we house them, give them benefits, and this is damaging the economy of this green and pleasant land.

No-one ever stops to consider the ‘push’ factors, the reasons people bother to emigrate in suffocating containers or freezing cargo trains. Why on earth would anyone endure thousands of miles of hunger and abuse to live in an alien place where language, customs and culture are hostile? The reasons are obvious, and many. Widespread poverty, soaring violent crime, economic mismanagement on the part of their own government, stellar inflation, institutional corruption, natural disasters, sub-standard water, zero health-care, zero social security, zero secondary education, low life expectancy, poor civil rights for women, sexual assault, AIDS. And these are in ‘stable’ countries without a civil war.

Why do the selfish anti-immigration campaigners not perceive the wider world? We humans must accept our embarrassing truth, that most countries are shit-holes for most people. Until we, fellow homo sapiens of the West who have won the birth lottery, make serious efforts to help the developing world industrialise, economic migrants will try and get into our country by any method they can. And who can blame them? Who can deny them that essential human trait—of desperately trying to make your life bearable. Would you not do the same?

In the meantime, we have to accept that dealing with immigrants will cream a percentage of our taxes off the top of the Treasury pot. And gee shucks, the trains might well be late, again. That is the price we must pay for living as privileged, Platinum-Plus humans.