Putting the two stories together with comments like that of Edwina Currie about Foodbanks, shouldn't we ask ourselves if actually this country is equipped and ready to look after the most vulnerable refugees and perhaps we should hand pick the 600 or so toughest ones instead.
Do we have a handle on bullying in schools for instance? Who is more likely to get picked on and whose mums are less likely to have the language resources to advocate for their children? Do we have a good track record with supporting victims of sexual assault or is this country in fact home to traffikers of women from Eastern European countries who are brought here with the promise of jobs and then kept as slaves? Do we really look after people as a society here to be offering the support to the world's most vulnerable people? ( For more on traffiking, see www.stopthetraffik.org/uk)
What about mental health service users? Recent headlines tell us that they are likely to die 20 years earlier than the rest of the population if they have schizophrenia - not of their illness, but of heart disease and other preventable diseases. (Find out more from Rethink's Lethal Discrimination paper.)The mental health service is known in the NHS as the 'Cinderella Service' and children's mental health services as 'Cinderella's little sister'. Who is more likely to need their help than a traumatised war child suddenly finding herself in a foreign country with no family network to support her.
Yes, we should take refugees. Definitely. We should have done it a long time ago and it's outrageous that the decision has only just been made. The most vulnerable ones? I am sure the Scandinavian countries would serve them much better. And that train of thought got me thinking about the stories of Hans Christian Andersen, Denmark's hero storyteller. He told harrowing stories such as the Little Match Girl about a street girl dying from the cold and often had something to say about the way that in-groups form and others are victimised, such as the famous story of the Ugly Duckling and the Little Mermaid. '"I seize on an idea for grown-ups," Andersen explained, "and then tell the story to the little ones while always remembering that Father and Mother often listen, and you must also give them something for their minds."' (Extract from Hans Christian Andersen, father of the modern fairy tale by Terri Windling.) What I want to know is did these stories have such an influence on the Danish psyche that they introduced one of the most comprehensive (and expensive) systems of social support in the EU? (See Social Policy in Denmark by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Integration. AND integration. Do we have one of those?) And they are allegedly the happiest nation on the planet. Don't believe everything you see on the telly! The Danes I know have grown up breathing in care and concern for the planet, their communities and their families from birth.
A field trip for our elected representatives might be in order. In the mean time, Nick Clegg, "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."