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21 October 2016

THERE were 14 on Tuesday. There might be “up to 300” by this time next week. The numbers of refugees allowed into Britain from Calais continue to underwhelm, given the size of the problem across Europe — a continent to which Britain still belongs, by the way. And the welcome? The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams was part of a small reception party. More prominent, however, were snide attacks on the few young people who had been allowed in. Critics queried their age, suggesting that, judging by their size, some were actually adults who had lied about their age in order to be admitted. Given that the first intake had been chosen because they had family members in the UK, and had been vetted by the Home Office, such a response was absurd as well as ungenerous. The Home Office and Border Agency — working towards reducing net immigration to the new target figure mentioned by the Prime Minister, actually the old, unreached target figure — show no sign of slackening their stringency. Besides, many children have reached maturity in the Jungle camp in Calais, waiting for an opportunity to cross into the UK. Our sympathy, arguably, should be greater for these young men from Syria, Afghanistan, and North Africa who are wasting their most promising and productive years in a stalled attempt to find the security that UK citizens enjoy without thought. The forced dismantling of the Jungle inflicts yet greater hardship on its estimated 10,000 inhabitants, but creates an opportunity to provide greater care for these stateless people while discouraging others from making a similar journey. The brutality of the war in Syria, however, and the insecurity of supposedly post-conflict countries such as Afghanistan, suggests that the flow of people seeking sanctuary will not cease any time soon.


Poor tone


SOMEONE, somewhere on or close to the Chapter at York must have warned before the bell-ringers were sacked last week: “They’re not going to take this lying down.” If only that person had been listened to. For four days, the Minster’s name was traduced, and in particular its Dean, before, presumably with the benefit of belated legal advice, Dr Sentamu came to the rescue and revealed that safeguarding was at the heart of the Minster’s action. Now, at least, those still arguing about the justification of the Chapter’s move can do so with enough of the facts before them. When a serious safeguarding issue was presented as putting the ringers on a par with the flower-arrangers (as if the Chapter was proposing to leave the Minster flower-free for weeks, if not months), there is no wonder that unnecessary heat and very light was generated. In hindsight, the Minster has been engaged in an immensely difficult task. But here’s a tip: if the action you embark on involves changing the locks, don’t head your letter of explanation: “York Minster invites everyone to discover God’s love”. 

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