Great Britain

Opinion: Priti Patel has unenviable job finding a solution

FOLLOWING the article in the T& A ‘City’s refugee rules plea’ (June 11) my thoughts are that UK residents can hardly fail to have seen and read about the large numbers of illegal immigrants coming ashore in flimsy boats on the South coast.

Disregarding the current ever-present danger of virus infection which many may bring with them, the logistics which they cause are tremendous: accommodation, sanitation, food, language problems, unaccompanied children, illnesses, no identity papers, pregnant women, sheer volume of people - the list goes on. Some boats are turned back to France but that cannot be done once they are inside British territorial waters.

It is highly likely that most of these would-be immigrants have escaped dire poverty, physical danger and persecution, lack of work, no income nor financial state help, no proper housing, starvation, no or rudimentary health service, etc.

It does not need much imagination to find a reason for these unfortunate people to want to escape to a country where they probably speak the language and hope for a free National health Service, probably work and a normal life. Who can blame them?

All this is in contrast to people from Europe and Asia who came here under control in the last 75 years with proper documents and visas.

In my own case my parents wanting to escape certain death before the Second World War had to make several visits to this country before they had the requisite papers for sojourn and permission to work. The people I have quoted want to enter by brute force and subterfuge. My point is this: with all the deprivation in their own country who can blame them?

Yet it is wrong of them to do what they are doing. Whilst I have no answer any more than the Government has I want to point out that they are desperate conditions as described which has in most cases driven these poor people to take the perilous journey not only across the Channel but the Mediterranean as well.

To its credit Bradford which has always been a City of Sanctuary has absorbed refugees from Syria, the Rohingyas and other places. My sympathies go out to Dover and Mediterranean Islands which are flooded out with refugees. I was once a refugee and know what it is like under controlled circumstances; how bad must it be under chaos?

My sympathies also go to the Home Secretary Priti Patel who has a most unenviable job finding an elusive solution.

As Bradford has amply exemplified the city has always acted with compassion to help those in danger of their lives. However there is a physical limit to what the South coast and Mediterranean Islands can do.

Like giving financial help to charities, most people and organisations do not have a bottomless purse: ‘enough is enough’ is the well-known proverb. Having said all that, I still have not got a fool-proof ‘off the shelf’ solution.

* RUDI will be at Bradford Literature Festival this month reading from his memoir, Berlin to Bradford. He will share aspects of his remarkable life, including his experiences as a refugee, and answer audience questions.

As a child in Berlin, Rudi encountered rising anti-semitism. He recalls being suddenly slapped in the face by a boy who had been a friend, and seeing a large sign bearing the chilling words ‘Hunde Und Juden Unerwünscht’ (Dogs and Jews Unwelcome) at the entrance to a swimming pool.

In 1937, aged 11, Rudi fled the Nazis with his parents and sister and, after a long, exhausting, frightening journey, arrived in England. “My father had visa papers and was advised he could work anywhere except London and Manchester where there were ‘too many refugee dentists’,” recalls Rudi. “The clerk metaphorically stuck a pin in a map and suggested Bradford.”

Rudi went to Bradford Grammar School and later followed his father into dentistry. Now 95, he is chairman of the Bradford Tree of Life Synagogue. It was where, as a young man, he discovered his love of singing, and joined the choir. He went on to be a member of Leeds Philharmonic Choir for 50 years. “I took over the synagogue conductor’s baton, but over the years the choir numbers dwindled. Now I am the choir, singing everything solo,” he says. “Each year I sing the Hebrew mourning prayer, El Male Rachamim, at Holocaust Memorial Day events in Bradford and other places.”

In 2017 Rudi was awarded the British Empire Medal for his work in interfaith relations in Bradford. He has worked closely with the neighbouring Muslim community on saving the synagogue from closure.

His fascinating book highlights his life and work, and family life with his late wife Marianne and their four children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

* Rudi Leavor is at Bradford Synagogue on Sunday June 27, 12-1pm. For tickets visit bradfordlitfest.co.uk

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