"But how can you live and have no story to tell?" Fyodor Dostoevsky
"This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s" Gary Lineker
UK Prime Minister Sunak couldn't pray for a better distraction. As the British economy continues to tank, strikes rumble on, and the war in Ukraine enters its second year, with no resolution in sight, his troubles mount. It's not a good look that the sanctioned Russian economy is doing better than the UK. Go figure.
Meanwhile, Sunak's offer to train Ukrainian fighter pilots rang hollow. According to the National Audit Office, hundreds of Britain's future RAF pilots remain stuck in a ten-year training bottleneck. These potential top guns are kept busy organising sports days and such. No wonder the Americans believe the UK is incapable of defending itself. With all that on your plate, any 'look over there' moment is welcome. So, here comes a former footballer and BBC TV presenter with an opinion.
I've got no issue with Gary Lineker ranting about the proposed policy banning refugees who arrive illegally on Britain's shores. He's entitled to his view. Also, the fact that his contract with the BBC precludes him from airing such views is neither here nor there because the BBC failed to hold others to the same standard.
And, if Lineker wishes to summons up Hitler and Nazi Germany to suggest that Britain is, in effect, a fascist totalitarian state, I'll support his desire to look like a sixth-former losing a debate.
Godwin's Law emerged to cover such instances. Because without anything significant to contribute to a debate, bringing up the defining horror of the modern era - the very nexus of evil - is a dead cat tactic. Most adults can agree the comparison is childish, unhelpful and unfair. The UK has many problems but isn't even remotely like Nazi Germany.
But I'll give Gary his due. He has taken in refugees; he can afford to house and care for them as a multi-millionaire. Unlike the deprived north England communities, which home most refugees in hotels. There, in post-industrial towns, already stretched social services can't cope.
The behaviour of refugees isn't helping. In one instance, near Liverpool, a riot flared after a video emerged of an asylum seeker making unwelcome advances to a local teenage girl. While The Guardian sought to portray the trouble as right-wing inspired, all the evidence pointed to a spontaneous reaction from the local community.
Anyway, the whole Lineker saga is now framed around freedom of speech, the influence of politicians on the independent BBC and its very future. That the BBC is biased is self-evident. Hong Kong saw this first-hand with the BBC’s distorted coverage of the troubles here in 2019.
Still, all this hoo-ha takes up bandwidth while the real issue fades into the background. Britain can't secure its borders.
The government estimates that 80,000 people will attempt to cross the channel illegally in 2023, double the 2022 figure. These crossings, arranged by organised crime, are lucrative and dangerous. Moreover, one-third of the arrivals are young Albanian men. Albania is a NATO member, UK's ally and a safe country. Hence these men are economic refugees who won't qualify for asylum.
Then you have the cost. Seven million pounds a day are spent on housing refugees in hotels, while Sunak is giving the French £500 million to win their cooperation. The French must be laughing their heads off at this Brexit dividend.
Sunak could better spend these large sums on providing a decent UK ambulance service or fixing myriad other problems.
Why is the UK so popular? Simple, it's a soft touch. France and many other European countries have mandatory identity cards with biometric data. Thus it is difficult for refugees to access services plus take up work.
The UK has no such system. Therefore, these young men can disappear into the underground economy or crime networks without a trace, while genuine refugees suffer in the fallout.
Still, I'm sure the new proposals put forth by the Tory government will fail. Like previous initiatives, a lack of funding, resources, and political fortitude will derail the whole show. That will leave the usual half-measures and muddle.
Hong Kong faced a similar situation with screened-out Vietnamese refugees in the 1990s. In the end, forced repatriation proved necessary with flights to Hanoi. The initial flights proved troublesome, then volunteers came forward once the people stuck in the camps here realised their only option was to return. The process gathered further pace as Vietnam's economy surged ahead.
At times the repatriations proved a raw rough thing with terrible optics as distraught people were carried onto aircraft. But, in the end, it proved the best solution for all sides. The returnees prospered as reforms in Vietnam enhanced the economy. I doubt the UK has the stomach for such scenes in the current climate.
But there is a lesson here. Instead of destabilising the world by driving unwelcome interventions, wars and weapons sales, the best outcomes are in trade and cooperation. Then people don't have the urge to move.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.