DAY 253: Suffering

August 3rd, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Mine, yours, that of the world. (Have I told you about my knees, which seem to get worse every day? And my cataracts in both eyes?) There’s always plenty enough to go round, and what a bewildering variety! And all of us are always competing, promoting the particular brand of suffering which most concerns us. As I’ve been saying, as I keep saying, it’s lately been that of migrants facing drowning in the Mediterranean; but there are so many different categories of suffering, so many circles in today’s hell? Today’s good news Is that  the Court of Appeal has finally, at the end of an astonishingly long-drawn-out process,Unknown ruled that the Home Office’s actions during the idemolition of the Calais jungle were an incompetent shambles, in which the interests of the children, which should have been the first consideration, were consistently ignored by the Home Office. But why has it taken nearly two years to reveal this typically devious behaviour by the H.O.? Basically, because that’s how they operate, through obstruction and obfuscation

To quote our own Sonal Ghelani of the Islington Law Centre:: “It is extremely disturbing that these emails show the government was advised by the Home Office’s own lawyers to act unfairly and unlawfully, in order to avoid legal challenges by the children concerned.
This is in direct contravention of a fundamental tenet of fair decision-making, where reasons are often required precisely to allow the person against whom a decision is taken to know if they have a basis on which to challenge it.

“The Secretary of State should now launch an investigation into how all this came about, given that an unknown number of children have been denied the opportunity to know why their cases were rejected and whether these rejections could be challenged.”

Speaking on behalf of refugee charity Safe Passage, which works to reunite child refugees and their families in the UK, Beth Gardiner-Smith, Project Lead, said:

“Tragically, many of the children that were refused by the government with no good reason have since gone missing from French authorities’ care, and we have never little to no information on their whereabouts or wellbeing.
“Today’s judgment reveals not only the failure of the Home Office to comply with law but also its abysmal disregard for the safety and welfare of incredibly vulnerable children.

“By refusing these applications without providing reasons, the Home Office left potentially hundreds of unaccompanied children in Calais with no viable legal avenues to join their families. The Home Office knew the risk that these children might lose faith in the legal process and attempt to find their own way to their families. But it withheld the information anyway. And that’s the way the Home Office continues to act; and the culture within which it acts, with impunity; unless we challenge it.

‘ I heartily agree; but the Home Office, who has never prioritized the care of the weak nd the defenceless, is now in the context of the ‘hostile environment’ making their persecution a priority.  Both as.regards my body and over the whole of Europe, nay, the world. (I I am minded to say) rights count for nothing as children are starved and incaceration rules.

Remember that this decision has not ended the suffering of the Calais children, simply by declaring that they were wrongfully detained. Have they found secure homes in Britain? Not yet. The key point concerns  – I must repeat – the unknown number of children out there. Europe is being overtaken by a disaster of an unknown size. A report, already a year old, describes the growing disaster cross France. We must rely on charities like Safe Passage to keep us  focused on this central fact, as once friendly countries become increasingly hostile; or on SOS-Mediterranee whose daily updates I recommend to you.

Still, these children at least have (I must suppose) been given a home in Britain. But we have to note that a French Senate report from July 2017 found that 709 children removed during the clearances of the camps in Calais had subsequently gone missing from French care shelters. Just let that figure sink in – 709. How many children were there in the jungle at its peak? Could anyone kindly do an analysis?

[It’s all enough to make you wish, like Thomas Campion, that the Lord would take your weather-beaten soul to rest. I did at least drag my weather-beaten feet about 100 yards along Oxford St. It. did my weather-beaten knees no bit of good.]

How many children were in the jungle at the time of the clearances? (all right, approximately)

How many children did the UK government record in its lists as acceptable for transfer to the UK? And how was this process conducted?

What happened to the rest of them?

While in other news of suffering, let’s not forget that over 150 Palestinians have been shot since April in the course of the “Great March of Return”. I’m quoting an article – which is interesting and though-provoking even where you don’t agree – from ‘al-Shabaka’ by Haidar Eid on the shift which the march 2526represents, in his opinion,, not least in representing the unity of the whole people.

‘Given the failure of the dominant political class after 70 years of displacement and dispossession since the Nakba, 11 years of blockade that international human rights organizations have described as a crime against humanity, and three Israeli wars that have killed more than 4,000 men, women, and children, the Palestinians of Gaza have decided to peacefully mobilize to enforce international resolutions, beginning with UN Resolution 194 regarding the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes and lands.

Indeed, as Gaza-based civil society and political activists have concluded, the only dependable power is that of the people, especially after the Palestinian leadership turned its back on the Gaza Strip and began to impose punitive measures against it in April 2017. The struggle against apartheid in South Africa has inspired Palestinian activists since the late 1980s and the popular mobilization of the First Intifada. Palestinian activists also draw on a history of popular resistance in Palestine, including the 1936 strike and later uprisings in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Israel.

The Friends have their occasional meetings for sufferings. Never having been at one of these occasions I’m naturally inquisitive at what goes on (particularly as the Friends aren’t given to talking much anyway). Do you get up and describe your recent sufferings – imprisonment, as it might be, or backache? And then, after a long pause, another Friend says ‘It’s funny that thou shouldst say that, I’ve been having the same problems but I find Arnica very useful.’ (Not with imprisonment.) I’d welcome enlightenment.


Israeli poet Dareen Tatour has been courting suffering by writing a poem (‘Resist, my people, resist them’) which has landed her a five months jail sentence. This is stiff for a poet, whose poems are mld in comparison with those of, say, Shellley. One can only applaud a writer who would be prepared to risk so much, rather than collecting the rewards (such as they are) of the published poet.


For various reasons (I’m reminded of ‘Dido’s problem’, the isoperimetric inequality, recent studies e.g. by the erudite Marina Warner on Dido as a migrant, from Tyre to Carthage and so on), I’ve lately had Carthage, the lost and destroyed city, on my mind. So here is a pleasingly camp song from some of the local witches.


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