An interesting end to a hectic week came by way of a Mr Jeff Randall, in a lively if slightly baffling piece in the Daily Telegraph. Hot on the heels of a storm of media interest in the closure of the camps in Calais sheltering hundreds of migrants and refugees, Mr Randall wrote that the Refugee Council, along with the BBC and the Labour Party, is leading what he calls the ‘Guilt Industry’. He says of the closing of the camps ‘A migrant camp is demolished in Calais and guess what? Yes, we are expected to wrestle with remorse’ and describes the target of this guilt industry as ‘largely, but not exclusively, Britain’s middle classes’.
Clearly we have no intention of making anyone feel guilty. We draw attention to the plight of people who are persecuted, who are victims of war and torture survivors, and ask for compassion when they arrive in Britain. So we wrote to the Daily Telegraph to request a right of reply. They asked us to write a letter to the editor, which we duly did, but sadly it was never printed. So here for you, exclusively, is our response to Jeff Randall:
We would like to reassure Jeff Randall (‘Bad news for the rest of us – the Guilt Industry is booming’, 25 September) that he is in no way responsible for the millions of people who flee their homes each year to escape persecution, and he, as with others like him, has no reason to feel guilty about it. Neither should he or anyone else feel guilty about being successful – in fact it is thanks to people like him that this country’s wealth is sustained, therefore allowing it to continue to take in refugees and offer them the chance to rebuild their lives in safety. Indeed, it is the Refugee Council’s heartfelt aspiration that the refugees we help to overcome torture and persecution will rebuild their lives so successfully that they will join Mr Randall and his fellow high-achievers in their detached houses in leafy suburbs, and get a great education for their children. Nothing would make us happier.
Chief Executive, Refugee Council