Over recent years, we have witnessed many celebrities using social media to tell the world what wonderful human beings they are (the names Gary Lineker and Lily Allen come to mind).
One particular cause close to the hearts of these self-styled do-gooding liberals has been the plight of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have travelled from Africa and the Middle East to begin new lives in Britain and mainland Europe.
Typical of the high-profile figures to say they would happily take refugees into their home have been Bob Geldof and Labour’s Yvette Cooper. To date, though, very few have honoured their pledge.
So it is very refreshing to discover that, while many of these saintly figures have reneged on their promise, others have nobly stepped in and invited a refugee to live in their home.
One of these is the distinguished journalist Lynn Barber. Around 18 months ago, after being deeply affected by ‘almost daily horror stories’ of migrants during the summer of 2015 (in particular, by photos of a Syrian mother trying to hold her baby above the waves on a Mediterranean beach), she decided to offer help.
That mother was Barber’s ‘personal tipping point — the moment when I decided I must do something’, the 73-year-old grandmother has explained.
So began an intriguing social experiment that saw the famous interviewer — whose memoir, An Education, became a hit film starring Carey Mulligan — allow a twenty-something, married Sudanese asylum seeker called Mohammed to move into her home in Highgate, North London.
The fact that she carried out this generous act in conditions of virtual secrecy is doubly commendable, considering the nauseating way much richer public figures, such as tax-avoiding TV presenter Lineker, have treated the tragic refugee crisis as a topic for virtue-signalling.
That said, the story of Mohammed — as told by Barber in last weekend’s Sunday Times Magazine — offers a fascinating insight into this human crisis. For it raises troubling issues such as the true status of these would-be refugees, their attitudes to British society (and to women, in particular) and their often ungracious attitude to the country that has given them a new home.
Barber tells how, at first, she wrote to Islington Council, offering to take in a Syrian family. But she received no reply.
Subsequently, she met an artist in a bar who said he’d been building shelters for migrants in the infamous Jungle camp near Calais.
Through him, she was introduced to Mohammed.
Originally from Sudan, he was said to have sneaked into the UK in the wheel-arch of a lorry that travelled from France through the Channel Tunnel. He’d registered with the Home Office and as an asylum seeker was waiting for his application to be processed. In the meantime, he wasn’t allowed to work and received a weekly £35 living allowance.
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Mar 22, 2019
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