Prisoners of hope

Seeing the tragic images of very few survivors from the Greece boat disaster, I reflect on my own family.

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On 14 June, the world witnessed a tragic event: hundreds of people from Pakistan, Syria, and Afghanistan drowned, or are still missing, in the Mediterranean Sea when their transport – a fishing boat – capsized.

I believe stories paint pictures worth a thousand words. So, let me tell you a story…

I was born in the beautiful country The Gambia, which is on the Atlantic coast, a place I return to every now and then. Years ago, one afternoon, I was sitting at a beach bar just next to the fishing village of Tanji. It was tranquil. Then, my peace was disturbed by a voice shouting in the local language, Wolof; but it wasn’t Gambian, he was Senegalese.

The voice was shouting and demanding “all the money must be paid up front”. I stood up to watch what was going on; it was a gut-wrenching sight. Over 100 men were clambering on to a small wooden boat, hardly a seaworthy vessel, which was going to try sail for the Spanish Canary Islands.

They had no room for any belongings; they were only armed with outrageous hope. The cargo was only these scared men with their lives in the hands of profiteering traffickers. They never made it.

Far too many Gambian young men, especially those with new-found access to the internet, feel as though they have no hope in their rural villages and make the decision to make a life-threatening trip.

This heart-rending sight is frequently played out on many coasts around Africa, where the ‘have nots’ will risk their lives in order to rub shoulders with the ‘have lots.’

In June, seeing the images of very few survivors from the Greece boat disaster hugging loves ones or praying for those missing, I reflect on my own family.

Under different circumstances, had my father not made a decision to make for Britain, it might well have been me clambering aboard one of those wooden pirogues and risking all in order to give my own family a chance.

My father and his friends would describe to me what London was really like when they first came over. They were attacked and beaten by marauding gangs; it was brutal. Many returned broken to Gambia, but my father never gave in — it was his dream, his Britain.

The simple truth is that all migrants want is a decent chance for their family. It’s their dream to provide the best start in life for them to go on and achieve their dreams.

The world is a much brighter place when we give everyone a fair shot to what we call the ‘circle of opportunity.’ For many escaping terror and instability, all they need is compassion and empathy.

When will the likes of Suella Braverman (the daughter of migrants) see the damage they are causing? When will migrants be treated as humans who are escaping the worst of experiences and who need our help?

There is a reason first generation immigrants go on to complete the unthinkable, against all the odds. We only need be given one chance — and we will work till we drop to make the total sacrifice of our parents’ worth it.

Thought for the week:

No Golden Door? All Immigrants Are Welcome.

Top Tips for Becoming an A Player:

  • All Brains are Brilliant.
  • Just because you don’t agree with them, doesn’t mean you cannot like them.
  • As you ignore others, many will come to ignore you.
  • It’s only when we face exclusion that we also face extinction.
  • Wisdom comes from listening to others, especially those who are not like you.

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