The lack of empathy shown by some towards the desperate people fleeing war and persecution in Syria was highlighted recently by a disgruntled British tourist in Kos, who was clearly offended by the sight of weary people sitting on the streets. She complained: “We came here on holiday to get away from all the news about wars.”
She said this without a trace of irony. Two versions of reality are presently colliding on this popular Greek island, creating a surreal situation so beyond the expectations and imaginations of British holiday makers that some really cannot grasp the fact that these people are not trying to ruin their holidays.
They’re just trying to survive.
Television footage and newspaper photographs highlight this disparity in experience.
An immaculately coiffed female tourist in holiday attire is shown cycling past a group of dishevelled Syrians newly delivered by the sea, while sunbathing tourists lie sprawled on the same beach on which the traumatised, exhausted families landed a few hours before.
The residents of small Greek islands like Agathonisi, which has a population of around 150 people, have more justification for any failure of empathy.
They are having to bear the burden of dealing with an influx of 600 extra people, so are understandably divided in their responses to those who arrive exhausted and traumatised on their shores.
This is the biggest refugee crisis to hit Europe since the Second World War, and the burden is not being evenly shared.
Some countries, like Hungary, are putting up physical barriers to keep the fleeing thousands out. Others are more subtle in their rejection.
The UK Government uses variations of the “we’ve already done enough” theme to avoid sharing responsibility for these vulnerable people.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel should be applauded for her humanitarian response to a 21st-century exodus which is reaching biblical proportions.
Britain’s claim to be a liberal, tolerant country has been seriously undermined by our response to this crisis, which is exemplified in equal measure by the attitudes of those holidaymakers in Greece, and by the statements issued by Home Secretary Theresa May.
I could not believe my eyes when I saw the article (31 August) which purports to set out the discussion of the rights of EU migrants within the EU, illustrated by a tragic picture of exhausted children in Belgrade, outwith the EU, trying to enter the EU along with their parents.
It gets worse when you read the caption, which states that these children must have jobs to be allowed into the UK. The Scotsman can do better than this.