In my final post of 2015 I reflected on my walk across France this summer, and on how different my experience and situation was from the plight of those who walk to save their lives. The focus of that post was a piece of music by Toumani and Sidiki Diabaté, Lampedusa, and one of my final reflections was that it is in the telling of people’s stories that we weave a thread of hope from events worthy of lament.
The purpose of this new post is simply to share a link to a programme that was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 29 December 2015, but which I only heard when it was repeated yesterday. In The Boat Children, Hashi Mohamed, once a child migrant himself, travels through Italy gathering stories from some of the young people who have made it this far from Eritrea, from Somalia, from Afghanistan. He reminds us that these are children who have travelled alone, without their parents, for thousands of miles, and through their stories we learn of their ordinary dreams, of their hope for a better life, not just for themselves but for the families they have left behind.
One of the young men interviewed explains that his goal in life is to wipe out the poverty in his family, and as I listened to his story I thought of my Cornish ancestors who sailed for America in search of a better life, and of the many Catalans from Sant Pere de Ribes, the town where I now live, who did the same. These Cornish and Catalan emigrants were not fleeing war or persecution. They were, in today’s parlance, economic migrants, a class of person who is now regarded as less deserving of settler’s rights than is the refugee. We have forgotten, it seems, that a thread of economic migration runs throughout our own past, and that it contributed to the accumulation of the wealth we now enjoy.
The stories recounted in The Boat Children need not only to be told but also to be heard, so please share the link widely (the programme is available indefinitely via the iPlayer Radio app and the programme website).