I still cannot profess to understand the thinking from either side on the war in Ukraine but like most people, I feel nothing but compassion for the desperate columns of Ukrainian refugees that we see every day on our television screens. Who knows what they have experienced over the past couple of weeks and I don’t think even they know where they are going? They just want safety for themselves and their families.
Nations to the west of Ukraine are welcoming the terrified, bedraggled masses with warm shelters and open arms. Poland has taken well over a million; Hungary around two hundred thousand and Romania, Slovakia and Moldova more than three hundred thousand between them.
Around a quarter of a million have already moved on to places such as Germany and France, and the EU is preparing to grant Ukrainians who flee the war the automatic right to stay and work throughout the twenty seven nations for up to three years.
And where does Britain stand in this league of compassion? The country that welcomed tens of thousands of Jewish children fleeing Nazi Germany; the country that prides itself on its record of human rights, and which likes to think of itself as one of the most compassionate democracies on the planet?
Up until a day or two ago there was a sign – now removed – on a closed door in an unmanned outpost in Calais that said, ‘No Visas.’ Beneath it, was given a web link that took you to an online application form. Or even less charitably a directive to go to ‘Paris visa centre’ or the visa centre in Brussels. No addresses or directions were given.
This is surely outrageous and a blot on anything vaguely humanitarian that remains in government departments such as the ruddy Home Office. How do these bumptious officials expect someone who has just travelled two thousand miles in the freezing cold with everything they own in a suitcase to download an online form? How many of them are carrying computers or even fancy cell phones?
The Home Office have also proudly announced a new visa centre in Lille, seventy miles from Calais, although it will not offer appointments or walk-in access, and its exact location will not be made public.
As of yesterday, this country had approved just seven hundred and sixty visas.
Mothers with babies in freezing cold wet nappies, grannies trying hard to keep walking or chldren frightened out of their wits – it is the same for everyone. If you do not have a visa, you do not get in.
Even to my cynical mind – and I have complained about the refugee problem before – this is bloody disgraceful. These are not young men with cell phones seeking fame and fortune in this soft country. These are genuine refugees, most of them women and children fleeing from brutal arial bombardment yet when they manage to reach what they think is safety, British desk drivers don’t even offer a cup of tea or a word of reassurance. In fact, they are not even present. All these unfortunates meet up with is a scrap of paper stuck to a wall and the prospect of a journeying all the way back, no matter how poor a state they may be in. Bunter Johnson and Priti Patel, together with the entire week-kneed bunch of cretins who make up the weakest and most ineffectual cabinet in British history should hang their heads in shame.
How can they justify sending exhausted families from pillar to post, making them walk through endless bureaucratic minefields when they are out of their minds with fear and grief, ripped from their lives, terrified for the fate of loved ones back home?
It is a disgrace and an abject failure of government.
We are blithely informed that the Home Office doesn’t want to risk letting in the wrong people and that I suppose is fair enough. Some bad people will doubtless try to get into Britain under false pretences but these are people fleeing from the horrors of war dammit. At times like this you have to offer help first and ask questions later.
And what about those ‘refugees’ – mostly young men – coming across the channel in ever increasing numbers? I would bet my trousers that few of them even have passports, let alone visas yet they seem to be welcomed with open arms.
But Patel’s failure in that department should not affect the plight of Ukrainians. If we had even a semi-competent Home Office, it would be able to rise to the occasion. Instead, Putin’s victims must all jump to the whims of desk jockeys in Whitehall (none of whom have even heard an angry shot) while the British public look on, utterly ashamed at the inadequacy of their government’s response.
Meanwhile our revered leader’s sanctions programme of which he seems so proud is becoming ever more ridiculous. I can vaguely see why ordinary Russians would be affected by the withdrawal of companies like McDonalds or Starbucks but now the Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra is facing ridicule after removing the Russian composer Tchaikovsky from its forthcoming programme due to the war in Ukraine.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, which celebrates Russia’s defence against the invasion of Napoleon and is notable for featuring a volley of cannon fire, was due to be included in the orchestra’s Tchaikovsky concert at St David’s Hall on 18 March, but the entire programme has been abandoned due to events in Ukraine.
Cancelling a Tchaikovsky concert is so completely illogical that ordinary Russians will write it off as Vlad the Bad going overboard with his anti-western propaganda.
I am no expert on Tchaikovsky but do know that he spent a lot of time in Ukraine and incorporated a great deal of Ukrainian folk music and stories into his work.
And to confirm the fact that the world – or at least this little part of it – has completely lost its marbles as well as its honour – we had the news a few days ago that that complete blithering idiot, Gavin Williamson is to be knighted.
Williamson was indisputably, except perhaps by his mother the worst minister of his generation. Useless at defence – he told the Russians to shut up and go away which must have terrified them – and a complete disaster at education. He was ignominiously sacked from both jobs but somehow, he is worth this considerable honour.
I have heard it rumoured that as a former Chief Whip, he ‘knows where the skeletons are buried. and Bunter J is frightened of him, but this is difficult to believe. Yet short of sticking two fingers up to the country, Johnson could not have made his contempt for the British public more plain.