The long walk…

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.

First the desert and then the seas, then another sea where it is hot and there is not enough water to drink, only water to look at and the boat smells of what they put in the engine. Then the lorry that smells of whatever was in there before, a bad smell.

Then the place they call a camp, where the people they live in shacks and wait. The camp is near the sea. That other sea, the last sea, it is hard to cross. So instead I walk, always walking. The dark place is long and dangerous, but I keep on for mile after mile. Then the men come for me. They take me to where I have dreamed of, but they take me in a way that is not so friendly. They stand me in a room and the man tells me how I have broken the law of this land that has been calling to me; calling me for so long and for so many miles…

Apologies to Abdul Rahman Haroun, aged 40, from Sudan but now said to be of no fixed address. The details as described here are entirely made up. A man on a ledge in York, even a man who sometimes feels sorry for himself, cannot know what it is like to be so desperate that you are prepared to walk through the Channel Tunnel. Walk, what’s more, for nearly its entire length of 31 miles. Such a long and dangerous trek only to be arrested.

If this story, and the whole migrant crisis, didn’t have such a tragic element to it, there would be something almost comic about the law Mr Haroun broke. He is charged with causing an obstruction to an engine or carriage using the railway under the Malicious Damage Act 1861 and is due to appeal at Medway Magistrates Court on Thursday. That’s a very antiquated charge for a modern problem, an act put into law long before the tunnel was dug and anyone was foolish or desperate enough to attempt to walk along its unfriendly length.

If I was one of those magistrates, I would deliver a mild rebuke to Mr Haroun and then tell him that he could stay in Britain as reward for his sterling efforts. Perhaps that is why I am not a magistrate.

But in terms of sheer determination to get into this country, you could hardly try harder than this man from Sudan. Many people will say that he should be sent back, the stock response of the terminally unimaginative. Some people do have to be sent back under whatever system is set in place to control migration. But surely a man who has tried so hard should be slapped on the back and told that we need people of such guts and determination.

With the country watching and the newspapers reporting his long walk, it was almost as if Mr Haroun had been taking part in a gruesome new reality TV show. Perhaps it could just be called The Tunnel, as that’s the sort of name these affairs tend to have.

One irony of all this is that it is often Conservatives who complain about such migrants; or if not that, it is people giving into the more conservative side of their nature, for many people do have such a side.

Yet traditional Conservative/conservative values of determination, hard work and a willingness to strive and suffer to improve your life and the life of your family could hardly be better illustrated than by a man so desperate to arrive here he was prepared to walk all the way through the Channel Tunnel.

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