Wigan, you have let yourself down.
I am from Wigan and I never mind revealing this detail about myself to anyone, the opposite in fact; I am proud to come from Wigan. This tough little Northern town with its pies and its Uncle Joe’s and its rugby team; we’re known throughout the world. Wherever you may find yourself, the phrase ‘Oh I know a bloke from Wigan!’ will inevitably find you and there you will be, basking in that little glow of recognition while someone from Basingstoke asks you to say ‘dirty purple curtains’ in your best Wigan accent. George Orwell wasn’t that fond of us with our industry and our pretend pier but we took his jibes in good favour and named a pub after him. Our Northern Soul music was renowned and people flocked to our Casino to dance their hearts and souls away, but Wigan, you have let yourself down.
Only a couple of months ago we showed the North West what big hearts we have by donating food, clothes, toys and all manner of day to day essentials when the apartments at Trencherfield Mill went up in smoke. People had no homes and there we were, all over FaceBook, rallying the troops and organising collection points for those families who had lost everything. We did well, but since then, Wigan, you have let yourself down.
A couple of days ago a picture of a dead dog was shared by hundreds of people, the Police and the RSPCA got involved when it came to light that a boarding kennels in our town was mistreating dogs and allowing them to die. Quite right, Wigan, well done. So quick to see an injustice and speak up for those who were vulnerable and unable to speak for themselves. Since then, Wigan, you have let yourself down.
It will not have escaped your notice that in Calais the French lorry drivers are on strike. For what reason I do not know and quite frankly, I am not that bothered; it is their right to strike if they feel they are being treated unfairly. Lord knows that being a relatively ‘safe’ Labour seat, Wigan has seen its fair share of strike action. There is a sightly different focus on that lorry drivers’ strike though that has been all over the news; the attempts by asylum seekers to take advantage of the commotion and try to get to Britain.
Let me give you some facts about asylum seekers. Please do note that these are facts and not the tripe that the average tabloid feeds you in an attempt to colour your judgement of vulnerable people.
*Asylum seekers do not come to the UK to claim benefits. In fact, most know nothing about welfare benefits before they arrive and have no expectation that they will receive financial support.
*Most asylum seekers are living in poverty and experience poor health and hunger. Many families are not able to pay for the basics such as clothing, powdered milk and nappies.
*Almost all asylum seekers are not allowed to work and are forced to rely on state support – this can be as little as £5 a day to live on.
*Asylum seekers do not jump the queue for council housing and they cannot choose where they live. The accommodation allocated to them is not paid for by the local council. It is nearly always ‘hard to let’ properties, where other people do not want to live.
*Asylum seeking women who are destitute are vulnerable to violence in the UK. More than a fifth of the women accessing therapeutic services had experienced sexual violence in this country.
*Asylum Seekers do not receive more benefits than pensioners in UK.
Feel free to browse other facts about asylum seekers here.
The question is; do you actually know what an ‘Asylum Seeker’ is? Did you know that a ‘migrant’ and an ‘asylum seeker’ are not the same thing? This term has been bandied about the media and is associated with some very negative connotations but if you knew what seeking asylum actually meant, Wigan, I wonder if you would hold the same view.
Someone who seeks asylum is fleeing from their country of origin for political reasons, usually war, to another country deemed to be safe. To put it into perspective for you, imagine being seriously pissed off with someone, ranting about it on FaceBook and tagging all your mates in it, we’ve all done it. But what if that rant led to you and your mates being hunted down by a gang with guns and killed? What if, in the middle of the night, someone broke into your house, dragged your children from their beds and killed them before moving on to you? What if someone offered you a place in a van that would get you out of that situation? Would you take it? Would you grab a bag and what was left of your family and run? Of course you would. I would.
Its human instinct to fight or flight when we’re faced with a life threatening situation and just because someone speaks with a different language or is a different religion to you doesn’t mean that their life and that of their children isn’t just as valuable as yours. Peek at your kids, tucked up in their beds, what would you do to keep them from harm and protect their lives?
Keep this in your mind, Wigan, as I describe the abhorrent behaviour displayed by a select number of ignorant people earlier this week.
A good friend of mine drove past the Britannia Hotel in Standish earlier in the week where a small number of asylum seekers have been housed temporarily. Outside the hotel was a bunch of idiots protest against that group of vulnerable people being there. There they were, claiming that an ‘act of genocide was being perpetrated against British people’. Genocide, really? Buy that fool a dictionary. They had a Confederate flag with them, a sign of white supremacy, rather than a Union Jack as apparently the Union Jack is banned from being flown because it offends immigrants and they wanted to make a bolder statement. What a load of bollocks. Please, someone, tell me how many people were told to remove Union Jack bunting and flags from their houses and gardens during the Olympic Games or the Golden Jubilee. Yes, if you are being a racist idiot you will be told to pack up your flag and your racist slurs and fuck off back to the hole from which you crawled because YOU are being offensive. This, Wigan, was how you let yourself down this week. It was reported on Wigan Today that the protestors didn’t sound like they had Wigan accents however all those cars, with their drivers and passengers beeping and cheering in support of them were certainly from Wigan. That isn’t acceptable. You targeted a group of people who have fled war, murder, bombs, rape, kidnap and the destruction of the country they live in. They made it to a safe place and asked for help and you intimidated them, alienated them and made them feel unwelcome. You should be ashamed of yourself.
We are better than this, Wigan. We have big hearts and we are generous. We stand up for what is right and we welcome visitors to our little town. We should count ourselves lucky that we have been given the opportunity to welcome new people into our town to learn about their culture and allow them to learn about ours; teach them what we do with that egg-shaped ball we are proud to throw around or watch their faces the first time you share a bag of Uncle Joe’s with them. New people are not to be feared or forced out. That small number of idiots who targeted those who have lost everything are making us look bad, Wigan. Don’t let them.
For more real life refugee stories click here.