Ordinary Europeans welcome migrants and asylum seekers

Many undocumented migrants and asylum seekers, having lost faith in the dreams of a better life in the West, often regain it through friendship with ordinary Europeans. There are hundreds of committed Europeans working to alleviate the problems faced by migrants, even when their own governments refuse to acknowledge the situation.

Is this what gentrification looks like?

I’m not really an opinion blogger; instead I prefer to tell stories based on my reporting and research. However, every now and then, I do like to let off steam. So below are a few of my scattered reflections on the riots in London this summer, which I reported on for the Washington Post here, here and here, and for the New Internationalist here, and Legal Action magazine here. And if you want some meaningful polemic, go read what Gary Younge says about rioting http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/14/young-british-rioters-political-actions And Camila Batmanghelidjh here http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/camila-batmanghelidjh-caring-costs-ndash-but-so-do-riots-2333991.html *** I hate the word gentrification. It carries such unpleasant…

A humanitarian crisis in the forests of northern France

A better life? The European Union’s other problem France –  part III Many asylum seekers and migrants intent on getting to Britain set up camps close to the ferry ports and lorry depots along the northern coast of France. The camp I visit is just off a busy motorway in Teteghem, a town outside Dunkirk. Motorists speed by the vast stretch of forest, unaware of the chaos and desperation festering nearby. The forest provides the barest shelter for a group of Afghan men, who share four flimsy tents made with bits of wood and thick plastic sheets. A makeshift living…

“The police make us feel like animals”

A better life? The European Union’s other problem France –  part II The large decrepit factory stands tall but offers little by way of shelter. There are scraps of rusted metal and an assortment of garbage strewn over the concrete floor. The roof’s gaping holes, smashed windows, and missing doors mean the rain and wind will always get in. Everyone in Calais calls the building Africa House because it is where the town’s transient population of sub-Saharan African migrants and asylum seekers live. About 100 men reside in Africa House, most hail from Sudan and Eritrea. Other squats exist, dotted…

What price justice?

Legal aid scores highly on the coalition government’s list of public services surplus to requirement, and is therefore ripe for cutting. This week politicians debate the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, which includes proposals to reduce the £2bn spent on legal aid each year by £350m. One way the government plans to achieve this is by reducing the number of people eligible for legal aid – currently around 36% of the population (down from 80% when the scheme began in 1949). A second plan will remove from the scope of civil legal aid particular social problems where…

Children: the deserving poor?

‘If there’s anything extra to buy such as a pair of boots for one of the children … me and the children goes without dinner.’ So says a working class woman from York interviewed for Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree’s painstaking study of poverty in late nineteenth century Britain. When conducting his research between 1898 and 1901, Rowntree was alarmed at what he found: This suffering may be all but voiceless, and we may long remain ignorant of its extent and severity, but when once we realise it we see that social questions of profound importance await solution. Yet, over a century…