The word ‘heart-breaking’ can be used too readily, but how else to describe the day-in, day-out miseries of the Calais camp for the 387 refugee children who have the right to come to Britain but who, month-in, month-out, are being ignored?
Amber Rudd, the home secretary, is being urged to take immediate action, but this government seems to have better things to do. Unbelievably, as many as 178 of these waifs have close relatives here willing to receive them, and yet still nothing is done. The traffic light seems stuck at red, not even amber – and it’s beyond high time to switch it to green.
Fear of attacks by the rightwing press for being soft on immigration surely accounts for a callousness which puts us all to shame. Here’s a snatch from a Daily Maul editorial meeting in Lady Thatcher’s Wink. In this dystopian future, immigrants are held in centres known as bongo bins.
It was pure theatre. Here the editor reclined with the submissions list in his hand, and there they perched awkwardly on their chairs, sleeves rolled, plastic coffee cups gripped in tense fingers, competing for column inches and the moment’s glory.
‘We’ve stood this one up,’ the ruddy faced Harry Scutt assured him. ‘Laughter’s been heard from inside the Stepney bongo bin. Three witnesses have confirmed it, two of them happy to be named.’
‘So this is Laughing at Our Generosity?’
‘I think it’s more They Party While We Pay, Dalt. There’s been some kind of entertainment in there, and I don’t just mean improvised drum kits from broom handles and upturned packing cases. We think one of the staff has taken games inside.’
‘Doesn’t sound like Power4Us. They’re trained to be brutal.’
‘There’s always one bad apple. We’ve even heard rumours of English lessons, although they were outlawed last year.’
‘Teaching Them How to Claim Our Jobs. But I prefer the laughter story. That’s a real slap in the face. Yes, Fergie?’
‘We’ve a cartoon already roughed out for it,’ the art director offered. He stood up and brought it forward. ‘Happy natives chanting around a pot with a John Bull figure being boiled alive in it. Not sure what the message on the hatband’s going to be. Something like Generous to a Fault, I suppose.’
‘But they’re not all black in there, are they?’
‘Not all “black” black, if that’s what you mean. Quite a few eastern Europeans. Lots of Uzbeks.’
‘This might seem a tad racist to the bleeding heart brigade, Fergie. We need a couple of paler faces and some kind of quaint generic entertainment. Can we have a zither?’
‘But then we couldn’t very well include a missionary pot.’
The news editor came to the rescue.
‘Forget the pot. How about we have these assorted drunken ravers dancing on the sands of a desert island while John Bull is offshore in a tiny boat and sinking under the waves.’
‘Not bad, Harry,’ Frisby conceded. ‘The hatband could read something like Swamped by a Rising Tide. Have your man work on it, Fergie.