Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Our Hypocrisy as the French Raze 'The Jungle'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Our Hypocrisy as the French Raze 'The Jungle'

Article excerpt

Byline: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

THE phone rang early in the morning. It was Sarah, a food entrepreneur and Tory loyalist who claims I am her only Leftie friend. We rarely have agreeable chats and can clear restaurants with our noisy political arguments. This time, astonishingly, she came over all bleeding heart: "It can't be right, what the bloody French are doing to the jungle in Calais. There are children there. I can't bear to see them, the poor people, where will they go? Why aren't you kicking up about it?"

Partly because I have been away and have only just caught up with the story about the migrant encampment demolished on the orders of the French immigration minister, Eric Besson. How shocking were the images of the wretched huddles under tarpaulins, in limbo between faint hope and overwhelming despair, unsettled souls between life and death. Conditions were appalling and unsanitary, the stench sickening - literally, I imagine. Sarah was in culture shock, as will be many others: we see these scenes in Rio and Calcutta but here? In affluent and refined Europe? For millions of Britons and French, such pitiable victims of dark hues and strange tongues transmogrify into villains when they come to our continent. Bono and Geldof do not rage on their behalf and no one cares.

If an enclosure had been discovered in France full of starving, frightened dogs and cats, people would be mortified and incandescent. When Mugabe swept the poorest out of Harare and bulldozed their pathetic dwellings, the British Government and the EU condemned his actions. Today the contemptible immigration minister, Phil Woolas, congratulates the French on their Mugabe solution. Smell the hypocrisy.

The word "jungle" is both racist and inhumane, casting hapless migrants as wild, roaming beasts. I feel the insult keenly because when my people, the Ugandan Asians, were thrown out of Uganda and landed here, some were housed in camps by the government. …

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