Thursday, December 21, 2006

Outrageous 2

The responses to my post re unaccompanied children coming to the UK are too important to risk being lost in the comments section, so I'm starting a new thread, giving space to both the comments and my replies.

Lehane said:

The simple fact of these cases is that there is a strict legal requirement on Social Services to ENSURE the wellbeing of these minors. In fact all Government agencies have very very strict minors care systems in addition to the legal requirements in place. If you and others believe this is not the case in this instance then this should be highlighted immediately to the Government Minister responsible for Social Services via your local MP.

This and Lehane's previous comment casting doubt on the facts (and I can assure everyone that I would not have posted them if I hadn't been certain they are facts) took me by surprise. My post was about these children's lack of eligibility to free school meals. It never occurred to me that anyone would question the reality of these children's experience.

I acknowledge the practical problems associated with dealing with unaccompanied children. What are the alternatives - bearing in mind the existing pressures on social services and the lack of suitable foster parents or places in children's homes?

Social Services have many 'legal requirements' - but we all know there are gaping holes in delivery through which children fall, often with tragic consequences, as Minx pointed out in her comment:

Social services are hideously under-staffed and there are not the facilities to house people who do not come under 'normal' bounds.
I agree that it should not be happening but also know that there are massive holes in the system that allow such things to pass un-noticed. That is, of course, until there is some dreadful tragedy which brings the whole matter to light.

I find the situation in which these children find themselves desperately sad - but I despair to think there are people who would deny their reality exists. Even the Home Secretary conceded the system is failing when he declared his department 'not fit for purpose'.

Lehane's next point:

However, let's not forget that these children are now going to school, have a roof over their head, are being fed and SHOULD be getting all the support expected for a minor...something they would have not been getting wherever they have fled from. It's easy to condemn the failings in a system, but these failings are actually a massive improvement on what they have come from.

Yes, there can be no doubt that anything would be an improvement on what these children endured before coming here. The very definition of the word 'refugee' is 'one who seeks refuge' - often from unspeakable horror. But this is dangerous thinking. Taken to its logical conclusion, almost any kind of ill treatment or neglect could be justified as a 'massive improvement on what they have come from'.

As for not 'condemning the failings' (failings which previously had been strenuously denied earlier in the comment) how else do you try to change things for the better if not by pointing out injustice whenever and whereever you see it?

Lehane:

And, I can assure you, these children never made it to the UK alone ...

Aaaaaggghhh!!! How do you know this about these particular children? And if you don't mean them in particular, I think it's really important in a debate this important to choose your words with care so there's no possibility of misunderstanding. These children are not in a position to defend themselves or tell us their experiences in their own words!

Lehane:

... in many many cases there are "hidden" adult family members working the system to their own benefit, whilst the bleeding hearts fall over themselves to protest against those actually trying to support these children.. There are agents and facilitators that have brought them here, being paid for by families in the originating country and the extended and hidden families here.

I accept that you see a different side to this issue and don't doubt the situation you depict exists. You say 'many many cases'. How many? What proportion? Even if you say it's 50% (and I would need to see concrete evidence to support such a figure) that would still mean 5 out of every 10 children who are completely isolated having survived unimaginable horrors.

And as Minx says:

However these children came to be in this situation is irrelevent, as is trying to shut ones eyes and think that it can't possibly happen.

Back to Lehane:

It's easy to be outraged when you only see and get one side to a story...whether it be the Daily Mail or the Guardian/Independent headline viewpoint on the conflicting extremes.

But what you're giving out here is the standard Daily Mail line! Everyone's out to get us; they're all spongers wanting to exploit the system for their own ends; whatever we do is more than they'd get back home; the 'bleeding hearts' should just shut up. Oh - and the Guardian and Independent espouse radical extremism!

Lehane:

But I have to say, and I hate having to say it, this post is dangerously misleading in making people think refugee minors are left to fend for themselves and to their own devices in the UK, as the first comment from crimeficreader proves. Nothing could be further from the truth and if it is happening, as you assure here, heads would roll and prosecutions likely to take place. Surely that responsibility lies with you now to ensure action?

I have misled no one! The children in FB's school are one example of some of the appalling treatment meted out to genuine refugees. I know personally of people, adults and children, who have been subjected to levels of inhumanity and injustice in this country that I consider sickening and shameful.

Your final sentence about responsibility is the only one with which I wholeheartedly agree. It is my responsibility and now it's the responsibility of everyone reading this.

I take my responsibilities very seriously indeed - which is why I'm backing the school in their support of these children and making sure I do all I can to publicise - not just their individual case - but also what they represent.

No hard feelings, Lehane! I've said before that I welcome debate. You espouse views I'd never normally be exposed to. It's only by allowing our perceptions to be challenged that we can see if they hold up.

Mine do!

12 comments:

Joan said...

The trouble with this sort of debate is that it tends to degenerate quite quickly down to that dreadful, oh so familiar tabloid level of ‘them and us’, goodies and baddies, ‘you’re a bleeding heart, I’m a sane, rational human being/you’re a fascist pig, I’m a caring, compassionate human being, up the Daily Mail/no, up the Guardian. Yah boo and etc. Personally I hate it. But let me declare myself. I’m a bleeding heart (not ashamed of that, don’t feel like accepting any abuse for it) and I agree with you Debi, particularly with what you say about Lehane’s ‘Whatever is happening they’re better off here than where they were’ remarks which I find simply silly. We’re better than that, we apply different standards. It’s so obvious I can’t be bothered to go into it.

So let's try for a bit of perspective. We don’t know the details and therefore can’t judge the level of overall care, but it’s highly probable that Social Services are involved with these kids and are doing their best to support them. Somewhere there is almost certainly a Social Worker who is tired, under-resourced, unappreciated, hounded by the tabloids but struggling as best s/he can to do his/her best for them. What I don’t understand however is the specific school meals issue that you raised in your original blog. As minors the children must have a legal guardian, in this case (presumably) Social Services in whose care they (presumably) are. If they’re not in the legal care of Social Services then that really is a serious scandal and a major campaign should be mounted. But, assuming that they are, it seems very simple. Why can’t the Social Worker sign the form? I long to make a simple phone call to find out. Can anybody elucidate?

Minx said...

I have worked with children for the past twenty years. I could tell you stories that would make you sick to the pit of your stomach. Unbelievable horror stories of mismanagement and neglect from both sides of the fence.
I could also relate tales of triumph over tragedy, small heroes and heroines who have climbed out of the hole that they found themselves in. Most of these successes happened because someone somewhere said "These are only children - why is this happening?".

DBA Lehane said...

I'm impressed my comments should be elevated to a post within itself. I must have hit a nerve. Sadly there's a lot of emotional hysteria being bandied about here, as well as taking much of what I say being taken out of context.

All I will say is I care little for the view of the Right that demonises immigrants of any kind (anyone who knows my own family connections and roots would know this!) or the Left that bleeds hearts and wears rose tinted blinkered specs. As I've said, I've no political axe to grind. I come simply from the position of someone who has worked first hand, and on a daily basis, with the harsh realities of what is being discussed here.

And I will state it again, my main complaint with the original post is that it gave the impression that unaccompanied minors entering the UK are thrown out onto the streets and left to fend for themselves. This is blatantly not true. Give us the hard, cold facts of where this is happening.

I will also happily state that NO child ever makes it all the way to the UK without an adult being involved in the facilitation somewhere. Do you really think a child from the streets of Somlia or Dhaka really thinks, "I know I'll make for that place called England"? The reason they end up here is simply because there is a family connection somewhere. If you look at most refugees they will make for countries where they have family or friends already established. This is not to say they are bogus, it's a simple statement of fact.

However, I see a lot of hearts bleeding on this matter without a single suggestion on what to do to improve it? ALL the minors you metion will be the responsibility of Social Services. They will provide homes, beds, food, education for them. Sometimes it might not be ideal, but as I said it's still a lifeline (that may seem "silly" Joan but it's still a fact). So give us a sensible working alternative here...rather than the usual liberal waffle.

Fight the causes that lead to these children fleeing their homes. Don't condemn those here who are trying to do the best for them, often under conflicting politcal arguments. Especially with the misleading tone of the post.

Angry? You bet...because I'm amongst those who get tainted by such nonsense.

Debi said...

Well, Lehane, like I said - I accept that your experiences have led you to different conclusions.

And that's probably the biggest difference between us - I don't deny the truth of your experiences. I don't deny that abuses and exploitation exist in many forms and on both sides. I don't deny that you have witnessed particular aspects of corruption that have coloured your perceptions to such an extent that you are unable to accept that you are not seeing the full picture.

But you DO deny what I and many other people know to be true from OUR direct or indirect experiences.

As for taking your comments out of context, I'm not sure how you justify that statement as I copied your comments directly into the post - giving your voice equal space on my blog.

I accept that I'm never going to be able to persuade someone who is so absolutely convinced that the picture they see is the only one.

But I hope that other people reading this will have sufficient faith in my integrity and belief in my judgement and honesty to know I would never post anything I didn't know to be the truth.

There are many different truths - and not all of them illustrate the points we would like to make.

I know that. You, it is apparent, do not.

DBA Lehane said...

Debi...where am I denying anyone's view on this? I have clearly stated I don't go along with the Daily Mail demonising of refugees or migrants in general. Again your response is simply full of emotional hysteria without a single piece of constructive argument. I will go back to my original points.

1: You dangerously stated in your first post that unnaccompanied minors entering the UK are left to fend for themselves. I stated this just simply isn't true and is misleading...as the first comment on the original post proved. I ask you to back this up with actual facts. As I and others have said, IF it is happening, then it would be a major scandal that would lead to many heads rolling. You've made the claim, you should justify it.

2. I have said that no child ever makes it into the UK alone without adults being involved in facilitation. Do you really believe that organised traffickers do this for love? No, they are paid vast sums to facilitate these children. Who is paying this? Strangers who don't know the child? Those who are smuggled in...do you really believe they get from Africa or Asia all the way to the UK without a motive of an adult? What makes a unaccompanied child come to the UK, rather than stop in Germany or France or wherever? How do they know any difference if an adult is not either informing or behind the smuggling.

What nationality are the children you talk of? Has it ever occurred to you that the reason they don't get free school meals is simply because they are already seprately funded all their meals by the National Asylum Support Services? Or are you arguing they should be entitled to TWO free lunches?

As someone who has worked on the ground in Bangladesh dealing first hand with these children and facilitators and god knows what other kinds of traffickers/criminals...I'm very passionate about this subject and hate the right for demonising things and the left for simply not accepting that the migration is manipulated.

As for taking comments out of context...I am amazed that someone who is obviously intelligent and a writer can argue that simply quoting somone means it cannot be taken out of context. You quoted what I argued about children and tried to expand this as if I was talking about refugees in general. That, to my mind, is out of context.

So again...enough of emotional stuff and directly respond to what I am questioning?

DBA Lehane said...

Oh, and by the way, I am not questioning your integrity on what you have posted, I am questioning whether you actually have all the facts or are being swayed by an emotional argument? There was a newstory recently in the Independent abot a child who came in to the UK recently unnaccompanied and was then removed. There was a massive uproar in the newspaper about it. Yet, I can tell you every single thing the newspaper reported was wrong, inaccurate and played to those who can never see beyond their well meaning hearts. Your post reminds me of that. Well meaning but fatally flawed because it is YOU who cannot accept another side to the argument can and does exist.

Debi said...

Oh Lehane ... we're not even speaking the same language I think ...

I didn't say you denied people's views - but that you were unable to accept another side to the picture ... then you come back and say that's what I'm doing ... and so on and so on ...

This has gone beyond the point I want to continue. If other people wish to join in, that's fine. If not, I'm drawing a line under this post and comments since it's just become the 2 of us ranting at each other. (Though you are far more personal than I am!)

I'm certainly not prepared to put personal identifying details on my blog of the many people I know - several of them personal friends - whose stories would draw blood and tears from a stone.

I know you're going to accuse me of chickening out but truthfully I've said what I want to say and given you the space to have your say also.

Enough!

DBA Lehane said...

Ahem, excuse me one second...firstly you elevate my comments into a post and then your comments on 1 January didn't address any of the points I raised but simply "attacked" my view or opinion accusing me of not seeing other sides of the argument, etc etc without actually offering a single piece of evidence to justify your dangerous claims...and you suggest it's my comments that are the personal ones? Just so that you know, I came back to respond today after someone alerted me by email to the fact that you had responded in quite a shockingly personal way. Their view, not mine. So be careful with accusations like that.

I'm not for one second asking you to put any personal details of friends you know up...all I am asking you to do to is justify points 1 and 2 as I stated in my comments above. It seems you are happy to make sweeping dangerous comments in the initial post that started this and now try and pretend you don't want to discuss it when you are challenged on it.

I even ask you to point out where I "don't accept there is another side of the argument"...I've asked you to show me it in points and 1 or 2...you are yet to answer it. Like I've said, I deal with these situations on a daily basis...I have a balanced view. I couldn't do my job otherwise. I'm not actually sure what you are accusing me of? I believe we should offer every bit of help to those genuinely fleeing persecution. I don't believe that asylum seekers or immigrants to this country are demons who are destroying our way of life. I believe that the vast majority of migrants benefit this country as they have done for 1000s of years. However, I also see people abuse this system. That seems fairly balanced to me...so what don't you accept about what I am saying? It brings us back to points 1 or 2 again doesn't it...oh sorry, you won't respond to them will you?

As for why you don't wish to continue? Laughable. In future please don't make tabloid like sensationlised claims if you are not prepared to back it up. There are a lot of people each day doing the difficult job are trying to pick up the pieces in cases like this, without those wearing rose tinted specs trivalising what they do with outlandish claims!

Debi said...

See? We're not communicating ...

I'm happy for my blog to be used as a forum for debate. But this post and comments is no longer a forum nor a debate. It's just you and I taking up positions and being either defensive or offensive - however you want to see it.

Thanks for alerting me to having posted on your own blog on this issue. I'll take a look when I get the chance.

DBA Lehane said...

A debate takes two sides...I'm yet to see a direct answer to the direct question: "Do you stand by your claim that unaccompanied minors enteringthe UK are left to fend for themselves?" That's all this has ever been about. I have argued its an outlandish and unsubstantive claim, that is as dangerous as the absurd claims made by the Daily Mail. You have shifted to try and talk about exploitation of your friends (which I don't for one minute deny), how the right demonise migrants in general (I would agree with this too) in a poor attempt to not have to answer that very question.

It's you who has spoken of choosing words wisely and of integrity. Now is the time for you to state if you still stand by the original comment in the original post that started this? I KNOW as someone working in this "arena" it's blatantly not true...so I'd be interested in how you would justify it.

So lets see that integrity?

DBA Lehane said...

Sadly your refusal to acknowledge or simply answer this severely discredits you as either a blogger or writer we can trust. How can we ever believe anything you ever write or claim again? But don't worry, my last comment on the matter. And my last visit too. Your absurd claim was an insult to me and the many who work in this area every day. Your refusal to acknowledge you got it wrong or apologise for a misleading claim, or even to simply justify the claim, destroys the "integrity" you so self-proclaim. Stick with the fiction...it suits you so much better.

Anonymous said...

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The middle and lower class communities get little or nothing without a local tax increase. Which, they usually can't afford. So the red ink flows followed by service cuts and lay-offs. All because of the OBSCENE distribution of bottom line wealth in this country. So when people forgive the rich for their incredible greed and then praise them for paying a greater share of the FEDERAL income taxes, its like nails on a chalk board. I can not accept any theory that our economy would suffer in any way with a more reasonable distribution of wealth. Afterall, it was more reasonable 30 years ago. Before Reaganomics came along. Before GREED became such an epidemic. Before we had an army of over-paid executives, bankers, celebrities, athletes, attorneys, doctors, investors, entrepreneurs, developers, and sold-out politicians to kiss their asses. As a nation, we were in much better shape. Strong middle class, free and clear assets, lower crime rate, more widespread prosperity, stable job market, lower deficit, ect. Our economy as a whole was much more stable and prosperous for the majority. WITHOUT LOANS FROM CHINA. Now, we have a more obscene distribution of bottom line wealth than ever before. We have a sold-out government, crumbling infrastructure, energy crisis, home forclosure epidemic, 13 figure national deficit, and 12 figure annual shortfall. The cost of living is higher than ever before. Most people can't even afford basic health care. ALL BECAUSE OF GREED. I really don't blame the 2nd -5th percentiles in general. No economy could ever function without some reasonable scale of personal wealth and income. But it can't be allowed to run wild like a mad dog. ALBERT EINSTEIN TRIED TO MAKE PEOPLE UNDERSTAND. UNBRIDLED CAPITALISM ABSOLUTELY CAN NOT WORK. TOP HEAVY ECONOMIES ALWAYS COLLAPSE. Bottom line: The richest 1% will soon tank the largest economy in the world. It will be like nothing we’ve ever seen before. The American dream will be shattered. and thats just the beginning. Greed will eventually tank every major economy in the world. Causing millions to suffer and die. Oprah, Angelina, Brad, Bono, and Bill are not part of the solution. They are part of the problem. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A MULTI-MILLIONAIRE HUMANITARIAN. EXTREME WEALTH MAKES WORLD PROSPERITY ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE. WITHOUT WORLD PROSPERITY, THERE WILL NEVER BE WORLD PEACE OR ANYTHING EVEN CLOSE. GREED KILLS. IT WILL BE OUR DOWNFALL. Of course, the rich will throw a fit and call me a madman.. Of course, they will jump to small minded conclusions about 'jealousy', 'envy', or 'socialism'. Of course, their ignorant fans will do the same. You have to expect that. But I speak the truth. If you don’t believe me, then copy this entry and run it by any professor of economics or socio-economics. Then tell a friend. Call the local radio station. Re-post this entry or put it in your own words. Be one of the first to predict the worst economic and cultural crisis of all time and explain its cause. WE ARE IN BIG TROUBLE.