It is right to grant asylum to tunnel walker…

FLASHBACKS are all the infuriating rage in television dramas. So Man On Ledge thought it was time to have a go…

It’s so dark in here and when they come past I have to hide and wait for the terrible noise to end. Then the air storm blows away and I carry on walking, always walking; walking until my feet have been lashed a thousand times and my legs they are dead legs…

That was back in August. A Sudanese man had allegedly just walked the entire length of the Channel Tunnel in an attempt to reach Britain. My blog on that day tried to imagine what it must have been like to trek so many miles and then to fearfully trudge another 31 miles through a tunnel along which trains travel at great speed. In conclusion I said anyone who was prepared to take so much effort and risk to step on British soil should be allowed to stay here.

And now that seems to have happened.

Abdul Haroun was arrested on arrival and charged with obstructing a railway under a little-used 19th-century law. He has been held in prison since then and was due to face trial this month. Reports yesterday suggested that the 40-year-old had been granted asylum on Christmas Eve. It is thought the eccentric railway trespass charges will now be dropped.

Not everyone is pleased by this news. Sometimes a man stands as a symbol of something larger than his own flesh, blood and weary bones.

Floodgates will do doubt be mentioned by those suspicious of granting asylum to this man who walked here under the sea. Floodgates often are – perhaps because the image we so often see is of that human dam in Calais, stoppering those who are desperate to settle in this country. Take that dam away, the worriers believe, and immigrants would flood in – or arrive in a ‘swarm’ to borrow an obnoxious phrase from David Cameron.

The Daily Mail comment today takes a humane view on Abdul Haroun’s “reckless determination” to walk through the “perilous blackness of the Channel Tunnel” – well, up to a point.

After acknowledging his determination to get here, the paper says that “by allowing him to remain despite having entered illegally, we send a message of encouragement to all migrants. If you can reach Britain – however risky the journey – you’re here to stay.”

The Daily Express is also annoyed, saying that “this irresponsible ruling will only further convince migrants that Britain is a soft touch”.

Such views will be widespread, no doubt. And nothing about what is generally called the migrant crisis is easy. Yesterday it was reported that Sweden and Denmark have moved to shed their reputations as havens for asylum seekers by introducing identity checks.

From midnight on Sunday, travellers entering Sweden from Denmark have had to show a valid photo ID such as a passport – the first time such a restriction has been in place in nearly 60 years. Anyone without the relevant passes will be sent back.

So what does it tell us if even liberal-seeming Sweden is toughening its position on migrants? Well, I have undertaken extensive if unreliable research, mostly involved in reading Henning Mankell’s Wallander novels – and watching the TV dramas too (Swedish and English versions). His plots often involve immigration and right-wing politics. And, tellingly, one of his later novels, The Shadow Girls, explored the plight of African refugees in an often hostile Europe.

Much has happened since Abdul Haroun walked through the tunnel last August. The movement of people has continued and increased. I still think it’s right for this Sudanese man to stay, and believe we should never forget our humanity at such times. Yet that itself isn’t a complete answer, as everyone who wishes to settle in Europe is a human being with a tale to tell.

But I still prefer to see Abdul Haroun not as a threat but as a symbol of hope.

You can vote for me at the UKBlogAwards 2016 on the following link under two categories: Mediaand PR and Odeon Storytelling…


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