Amidst a growing concern about refugees, catalysed by the recently demolished camp in Calais, opinion is split. There are those who want to help the people they see who have had to leave their homes in the Middle East and Africa for resons including war, dictatorship and persecution, and those who express concern over the effect that housing refugee communities may have in the UK. On both sides there are valid points and unpleasant actions. 'Refugees Not Welcome In Devon' speak to a lot of people who are frustrated about the situation and worried about the negative effects on the local homeless population and Devon as a whole (including the risk of extremisim), but often express these worries in ways that seem negative, unhelpful and sometimes unpleasant (to refugees and their supporters). Meanwhile those who are trying to help refugees have provided a lot support for people who need it, but there are also those who are unpleasant to groups like RNWID, making threats to their members and causing more division and antagonism (equally unhelpful). So it's clearly a complex situation with no easy answers.
This is not a case of 'whose side are you on?' - the refugee crisis is hugely complex, as is the socio-political situation of the UK (austerity, homelessness, Brexit etc.). RNWID hold common ground on many topics, including:
- A disdain of the actions of the government (including austerity under the Conservatives and the financial failures and wars of the previous Labour administration)
- An awareness (and wariness) of religious and political extremism and resulting terrorist activity in Europe
- The issue of immigration (how we help people, who should be elegible for asylum and the cultural barriers that need to be worked on)
However, I still stand strongly in the knowledge that these issues are complex and differ from case to case. Although a completely 'open border' policy is perhaps not possible, it's also not possible (or morally accountable) to keep everyone out. There are problems that arise - who is 'everyone'? What should the criteria be for someone to be allowed safety and refuge in the UK? It's clearly an ongoing problem - but not one that's going to be solved with anger. With such a complex and many-sided problem it's not as easy as any of us think. There is a fine line between wanting to keep your community safe and happy and creating an environment that fosters phrases like "black bastards" and "send them all back" (genuine comments on the RNWID page). I am aware that you as admins do not condone such behaviour but is indicative of the mentality you are creating. Likewise, work needs to be done from people on the left/pro-refugee to ensure that you are not threatened and are allowed to voice your opinion without fear.
In these last few months I have listened to your view and even agreed with some points, but I have realised the futility in arguing. It is clear that the conclusion you have arrived at is to rally support and cause division through negativity and anger, and that's not productive. The only way to make things better in our communities is through helping people, one at a time.
I saw great work being done when i joined one of your homeless action missions in Exeter - something to be applauded. This is what brings about change. This is what makes a difference. The more we argue and fight with one another across a political spectrum, the less good any of us do. We all have struggles in life and we are all angry and fearful about the state of the world, but no good can come from blaming other people in hardship (much of modern history highlights the error of that approach).
Young people especially do not need constant reminders of the violent and changing times we live in - they need examples of how to make positive change - charity work, homeless action, supporting the local community (PATH torbay is one example of this) as well as reaching out to those of different national and cultural backgrounds who need our help (devoid of the prejudices and assumptions we hold). Because amidst your negativity and fearmongering you have omitted to mention that things ARE getting better. More people care, more people are supporting charities and becoming social activists - and in contrary to what many may think, terrorism in Europe has continually decreased since the 1970s. By championing the mistrust and hatred of refugees, you are doing nothing to counter violence and terrorism - if anything you are causing more division and more friction within the UK.
I'm fully aware that there are arguments and facts on both 'sides' of the refugee conversation - and we can all continue to argue about it until blue in the face. But i've realised that this is not the point - the more we turn on each other and argue, the more we're distracted and the less good any of us actually do.
So despite vindictiveness on all sides of the dice (I know that you have received threats of violence and that is just as wrong), the world is getting better - and it's not because of you. Let's not call each other idiots, or racists, or stupid lefties, or cucks or worse. The problems of this world, this country and this county are bigger than our squabbles. There are so many of us helping all kinds of people, both on our doorstep and further afield. It doesn't have to be a choice, or a political statement (as your homeless action days seem to be) - It's part of a bigger picture of humans helping each other.
In part, this is me washing my hands of the squabbling. I will not be angry, I will not argue - there comes a time when those who insist on constant negativity must simply be ignored. Continue with your homeless work and know that it's fully supported by the good people of Devon, but also know this:
You are not needed (and by that I mean you are not needed to help or improve anyone's way of life - that's done by people working together and being positive) and you are not making this county better. Thousands of people across Devon are making positive change with young people, the homeless, the poor, the marginialised and the displaced - You're welcome to join us, or sit where you are and never make a difference.
click on the links to see some of the POSITIVE work done in Devon:
Devon Homeless Action
Community Housing Aid