I’ve been charting the progress of this Covid pandemic from when it started to emerge in China. That was back in December 2019. The pandemic has exposed the very worst and the very best in both people and those who profess to lead them. It has exposed the increasing gap in equality that we have both within our own communities and between countries. And yes it is part of the Climate Emergency.
One of things that we all continually face is a barrage of numbers and statistics. Huge numbers, digits which start to have no meaning for us because they are so large and which we become inured to – but every one of those is a person with family, friends, pets, a life that was pootering along minding its own business.
The numbers are important: worldwide we have, as I write this, 4.14million deaths. In the UK, one of the worst now in the world we have 129,000 deaths directly attributable to Covid of which 114,000 are in England which has lifted all restrictions and in Scotland 7,859.
The number of people who are having to receive treatment in Scotland’s ICUs (Intensive Care Units) is distressing because many of them will not recover.
In the UK as a whole hospital admissions due to covid increased by 29% in the week ending 19th of July. That’s the same time as the PM Boris Johnson ‘let it rip’ in England and remember these people were already ill with covid before England removed all their restrictions.
It’s a callousness to the value we place on human lives that the UK Government has displayed in legislation going through the London Parliament.
After the Second World War, the UK joined with other nations around the world in signing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Embedded in this was ‘the right of persons to seek asylum from persecution in other countries’. In turn this led to the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, adopted in 1951. In 1967 this was widened with the ‘Protocol’ because originally it had only covered those fleeing persecution in Europe. Now it has universal coverage.
These internationally agreed declarations were because people had experienced the horrors of a war where state murder condemned millions to gas chambers and aerial bombing had reduced homes to rubble. There were many individual acts of courage and self lessness during that appalling time in the short history of humankind. Nicholas Winton in England and his team saved hundreds of children from the Nazi gas chambers.
Kindertransport (Children’s Transport) was the informal name of a series of rescue efforts which brought thousands of refugee Jewish children to Great Britain from Nazi Germany between 1938 and 1940.Holocaust Encyclopaedia
Today in the UK, we have a Government that likes to make use of the time in our history when we fought Nazis. That extraordinary generation who had seen the slaughter of World War 1 but who ‘joined up’ because they despised the rise of fascism and the threat of it taking a hold in our own communities.
On 6th of July 2021 the UK Government introduced a Bill to The House of Commons – ‘The Nationality and Borders Bill’. To:
Make provision about nationality, asylum and immigration; to make provision about victims of slavery or human trafficking; to provide a power for Tribunals to charge participants where their behaviour has wasted the Tribunal’s resources; and for connected purposes.
It has passed its second reading (there are 3 in the House of Commons) and it is now at Committee stage.
The United Nations Refugee Committee (UNHCR) spokesperson in the UK, Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, said.
““We were saddened that the Bill has passed this stage in this form.
“This Bill would create a discriminatory two-tier asylum system violating the 1951 Refugee Convention and target bona fide refugees.
“The right to seek asylum is universal and doesn’t depend on the mode of arrival. Under the Refugee Convention, states must grant asylum-seekers access to their territory and refugees access to their rights.”
At the centre of the Bill and the wider New Plan for Immigration is a new asylum system that penalises those entering the UK without permission with inferior support and fewer rights compared to refugees admitted via the small number of legal routes available. Spontaneous arrivals, or those having passed through countries deemed safe, and where it is considered they could have claimed asylum, will be liable to criminal sanction or attempts to transfer them to other safe third countries.UNHCR
The Bill would also see those seeking asylum being processed ‘offshore’ a move condemned as ‘dehumanising’.
The second stage of this Bill didn’t just scrape through in the House of Commons – it passed by 366 votes to 265.
National TV in the UK has reduced itself to voyeurism, the most recent example being Nigel Farage viewing from the safety of his boat a tiny dinghy bobbing up and down in the sea with a small group of people perched precariously in it.
Do we remember this?
He was not a number. His name was Aylan Kurdi and he was 3 years old.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame