Lost in a Train of Human Beings

Posted by in July's Magazine

It seems that children are to be the victims of xenophobic politicians across the world in this brave new world of insularity. The UK Government puts limits on the number of unaccompanied child refugees that are allowed in. That would be children who are, to all intents and purposes, orphans. They have left their homeland, forced out by war or famine or political repression, carried by adults, perhaps, or lost in a train of human beings seeking safety.

They might have lost their parents along the way – if their parents were still alive and with them when they set off – and they may have gotten separated from brothers and sisters. Whatever their stories they are children in need, children in immediate and severe need. Shocked, frightened, alone, they need help, somewhere safe to stay, someone to take care of them, to pick them up and make sure they’re OK. Somehow, though, the UK Government seems to think that a few hundred of them is all that we can manage here.



480 or so children when the original idea was to take about 3,000 to help house the thousands and thousands of such children across Europe – the Dubs scheme. There isn’t much that can be said to forgive that kind of attitude to children who need help but even the ones who are in the UK aren’t getting the help they need. Children who have been accepted under the Dubs scheme find that decisions on their asylum applications are slow to arrive; some of these kids are left without money to buy food or a safe place to stay.

Meanwhile, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has called for a “purification” of immigrants “street by street.” He was the man who made the decision to turn ships away from Italian ports because they were carrying people, including children, they had rescued from the sea.

This is mirrored by the actions of the President of the United States of America. He’s so determined to show that he’s standing tough against Mexicans crossing the border that he’s allowed some true horror to be conducted. Children being separated from their parents before being led off to be imprisoned. One US Senator, Elizabeth Warren, described the conditions the children faced as “a disturbing picture. There are children by themselves. They’re all on concrete floors in cages.”

Media reports from the detention centres showed they were like warehouses with big cages full of crying children. Later clarification showed that some of those children had been put on buses and transported hundreds of miles away from their families. Even worse were the later revelations that the US had created “tender age shelters” for children who have been taken away from their parents but were too young to fend for themselves. Detention camps for babies, on other words. What kind of a government thinks any of that is good sense?

What kind of a person thinks that any of that is a sensible thing to do to a young human being? Who could listen to the crying and the pain and not condemn it? When the Prime Minister, Theresa May, was asked how she felt about it she said it was wrong to keep children “in what appear to be cages.”

Whether the children are kept in cages, turned away from land or left destitute doesn’t seem to me to make much of a difference. They’re not being treated with the care and concern that we should expect governments in civilisedSave the Children societies to show children; they’re not even being treated with what you might describe as basic human decency. These children are being treated like some invading alien species, an unpleasant and unwelcome surprise.

No infant wakes up in Mexico of a morning and decides to travel to the US in search of a better life. No child wakes in Syria and thinks they’ve had enough of the war, and it’s time to head for Dover. No toddler thinks sinking in the Mediterranean in the hope of being rescued is a path to a better life.

Children are always at the mercy of the actions of adults, even in relatively peaceful and prosperous times, and these children have been displaced by the actions, deliberate or accidental, of adults who may have been their parents or may have been strangers. They are victims. They are in need through no fault of their own; they need the help of adults, not the indifference, further victimisation, and sheer contempt they appear to be suffering just now.

I know that some politicians think that there’s nothing wrong with chasing votes by being a touch xenophobic, appearing tough on immigration, talking about walls and borders as if they’re good things. I know that some see political advantage, but surely we can agree that the children don’t need to be the victims again? For the sake of all that’s decent in this world, it’s time governments broke out the humanity.

TWITTER @deidrebrock

PIC CAP:A refugee child’s impression of “Syria crying”

PIC CREDIT: Courtesy of Save the Children





One response to “Lost in a Train of Human Beings”

  1. Happy New Year 2019 says:


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