Gary Lineker – a welcome voice of humanity

Gary Lineker has taken a bit of stick this week for comments (such as the one above) on Twitter. The Sun went to town on him and there were calls for him to be sacked from the BBC.

But Gary Lineker deserves to be saluted for putting his head above the parapet. It is very important that iconic figures, such as Lineker (especially those like him who have many young fans) should say “enough is enough” in the drift to more and more overtly uncompassionate language towards refugees.

There’s an excellent Channel 4 news FactCheck which details the procedures used to screen refugees.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • I’m not a racist, but I agree with Gary that you can look at some of these child refugees and easily believe they are old enough to work as interpreters for the Home Office.

    It is not a hard mistake to make.

  • Perhaps the rest of the country should follow the lead of Liverpool and boycott this comic. I’m not a fan of Lineker but he’s entitled to hold a view without MPs and the right wing media attempting to destroy his career. Maybe there’s also a case to eliminate foreign ownership UK news media.

    On the substance of Lineker’s point I’m torn and flip-flopping by the hour. I’d happily take 100,000 kids from Syria. The country coped with many more child refugees during WW2. Some form of age verification is essential for borderline cases, if for no other reason than safeguarding the younger ones. But I don’t buy the situation of the adults in Calais. Genuine refugees in fear for their lives can and should claim asylum in France but they don’t so it’s more than just safety, which points at economic migration. Tens of thousands of migrants follow the visa and work permit rules to settle and work here, so I don’t have a huge sympathy for those whose intent is to bypass those rules. Adherence to the rule of law is a basic principle of liberalism.

    Someone give me a proper reason for having sympathy which doesn’t involve Syria (only a small number are from Syria and France has stronger historical ties) or how desperate they are (claim asylum in France then). The inability to answer that question is a real problem that gives the Sun and Mail numerous free hits.

  • Mr. Rose is correct.

    Gary is entitled to tweet that these refugees look to him like adult interpreters working for the Home Office.

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Oct '16 - 3:17pm

    Lineker shouldn’t be sacked but he seems outraged about people questioning the ages of refugees and I think it’s a fair thing to do for a child refugee program.

    I want to know what his alternative policy is. He’s received a lot of support from political commentators but we can’t just take in everyone in Calais.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 23rd Oct '16 - 5:50pm

    I thank Paul for this . It is outrageous that calls get taken seriously for sacking someone who speaks their mind , is not offensive , but is strong – minded.

    I agree with everyone who says there is nothing wrong with checking the age or questioning the status of those claiming to be refugees , not migrants. We can and should be exact , but that does not mean being nasty, which was Lineker’s point.

    And I agree with anyone who says the French authorities have a lot to answer for too, and Tim and our spokespeople should get to calling out the illiberal and uncooperative of the EU as well as our “Brexit Conservative government .” There is a lot of mileage to be got from being the patriotic and humanitarian realistic party rather than the nationalistic uncaring unrealistic one we have too many of!

  • Katharine Pindar 23rd Oct '16 - 8:41pm

    I also thank Paul, and I applaud Gary Lineker. This latest attempt to excuse our Government’s reluctant and very late acceptance of a few refugees by claiming that some of the young people who came last week looked over eighteen is unutterably mean and small-minded. They are refugees who have lived through terrible times and made tremendous journeys, and have now been stuck in that wretched camp for many months. Be they of any age, I welcome them, and am ashamed that they may hear of this despicable scare story.

  • Stevan Rose 23rd Oct '16 - 9:37pm

    “They are refugees who have lived through terrible times and made tremendous journeys, and have now been stuck in that wretched camp for many months. ”

    Then tell me please, in respect of the adults, 18 and over, why did they not claim asylum in the first safe country they arrived in, and why do they not now claim asylum in France? If they did not qualify then how is it right that they can jump the queue and bypass the rules pertaining to legitimate migration to the UK? If you were to allow such queue jumping how do you stop that being an open invitation to every people smuggler in Africa and Asia to redouble their efforts?

    This country has a proud history of accepting refugees over the centuries but it has been abused by people posing as refugees to avoid due process. In turn this has created suspicion and distrust of all those claiming refugee status. And it’s perfectly understandable. If we are to restore public faith and consent to a generous and welcoming asylum system we must weed out the cheats and return them whence they came if safe to do so. Failing to claim asylum in the first safe country is a potential indicator that something is amiss. Attempting to breach a country’s borders illicitly is another – breaking and entering is not a good method of eliciting sympathy and demonstrating what a well behaved guest you will be.

    All that said our Government’s attitude to genuine refugees is nothing to be proud of. We are not doing our fair share.

  • Tony Greaves 23rd Oct '16 - 10:27pm

    The boy Lineker done well…

  • In 2015 600 of the 900 children claiming asylum in the UK were later proved to be adults.

  • Tony Dawson 24th Oct '16 - 8:22am

    @Tony Greaves :

    “The boy Lineker done well…”

    At least his politics aren’t ‘pants’! 😉

  • I’m “Over the moon” that Lineker’s remarks have made the Sun “As sick as a parrot”…

    No more, please

  • I say well done to Gary, not just for his original comment, but for sticking by his guns.

    It’s disturbing just how eager certain media outlets are to silence anyone who doesn’t go along with their owners’ wishes. The attempts to dampen free speech should concern all of us.

    In Scotland, we also have issues with some politicians trying to quieten certain journalists who ask too many tough questions, or dare to show a lack of patriotism by scrutinising the government of the day.

    Whether we agree with these opinions or not, we have to defend the right to say them, and not brand dissenters as ‘unpatriotic’.

  • David Evershed 24th Oct '16 - 11:35am

    What is so wrong with France that migrants don’t want to claim asylum there?

  • Stevan Rose is 100% on the money.

  • David, many of them have family in the UK, and it’s also far more common for people in these countries to have grown up learning English as a second language.

    How anyone can be surprised that people would rather make their new life in a country where they speak the language with the support of family members, is beyond me. But I doubt people are surprised if they think about it. Moaning about the UK taking a lot less refugees than our neighbours in France is a lot easier if we act as if they’re all coming here for the free flat screen tvs that the council apparently hands out.

  • Malcolm Todd 24th Oct '16 - 6:46pm

    Well said, Fiona. It seems that for some people you can only be considered a “genuine” refugee if you have given up all claims to agency over your own life.

  • A Social Liberal 25th Oct '16 - 1:31pm

    Stevan Rose asked a question which, to be fair, has been asked over and over again by those who would rather we did not welcome refugees to our country.

    The answer is, of course, that past UK governments have slewed the chances of refugees getting to the UK as their first landfall in a safe country so badly that only way that those refugees could possibly get here would be with the connivence of the governments they were escaping from. From fining airlines who brought those refugees to the UK who carried faked documents to fining transport companies who unwittingly carry stowaways into the country HM Government has made it daamned near impossible for refugees to gain entry to the UK as their first safe country.

    There is also the point that the UK did not support the legislation in its former life as the Dublin Agreement and has derogation from it. To now use it when we have such a history – and especially when we are on the cusp of leaving the EU – would be rank hypocracy.

  • Katharine Pindar 25th Oct '16 - 7:23pm

    Thank you, Social Liberal, I was just aghast at Stevan Rose’s comment. There is no chance of migrants ‘jumping the queue’: a few thousand genuine refugees are to be grudgingly let in by this Government, which has delayed as long as possible processing the children entitled to come. As for economic migrants legally let in, they are doing good jobs all over the country, in the Health Service and in care, in catering for the tourist industry, in construction and in agriculture, just to name a few. Helping to rebalance our country’s population present skew towards the elderly, and paying taxes to boot. Immigration has enriched our country, and (as has often been said), if in some places doctors’ surgery times and school places are stretched, that is the fault of the Government not planning efficiency. Let us, please, remain a Liberal party!

  • Stevan Rose 26th Oct '16 - 5:18pm

    Katharine, I have no idea why you are aghast but I’m not referring to genuine refugees nor to legal economic migrants who have followed the law and processes. So I am not sure why you are listing the benefits of legal migration that I would have no argument with. I am referring to those who seek to bypass laws and who are not genuine refugees. Those people who threaten truck drivers, put train passenger lives at risk, throw rocks at French police officers. I do not want those people to be allowed into the UK. I am not in any way ashamed of that and I refuse to be labeled as illiberal or in any way unsympathetic to those genuinely in need of asylum.

    I am not convinced that the difficulty of refugees arriving in the UK as the first safe country answers the question. If your life is in grave danger and you find yourself in France or Italy then that is where you claim asylum. It’s about being safe not finding the best deal. Once you’re safe then you can find a legal way to your chosen destination. Liberalism includes adherence to the rule of law.

  • Katharine Pindar 27th Oct '16 - 1:32am

    Stevan, I was aghast because you wrote ‘Genuine refugees in fear for their lives can and should claim asylum in France but they don’t so it’s more than just safety, which points at economic migrants.’ I think you weren’t taking account of the fact that thousands of genuine refugees have in the last eighteen months or more flooded into Greece and Italy, from Syria and Afghanistan and African countries, far more than Greece or Italy could deal with, so naturally the authorities there would be inclined to forget the rules and encourage the refugees to go on through Europe. Then the Visegrad countries also felt overwhelmed and urged them on to northern Europe, where many remained in Germany or made their way to Sweden or generous Canada. A few of the many thousands got to France, and many then naturally preferred to aim for an English-speaking destination where they might have family members or where there would be a better prospect of work (since even refugees, especially if young and fit as most are likely to be, will need to work when settled) than in France. Of course a few of the desperate ones who were stuck in The Jungle for months sometimes resorted to violence, and thereby destroyed their case for sympathy. But for most of them, I think most Liberals do feel sympathy, considering all they have gone through.

  • Jayne Mansfield 27th Oct '16 - 9:05am

    @ Stevan Rose,
    I think that an argument can be made for your approach being the compassionate one.

    The people who will be on the receiving end of any growing hostility if people see obvious abuse of the system and laws . Those who keep dismissing these by changing the goal posts, i.e. ‘OK so some of them aren’t children we should still show compassion’, or ‘we should show the same compassion to those who are economic migrants’, are busily eroding compassion for those who are most deserving.

  • Jayne Mansfield 27th Oct '16 - 9:15am

    @ Steven Rose,

    It is half term and my grandchild decided to terminate my post before I could correct it!

    My second paragraph should read that it is genuine refugees that will bare the brunt of growing hostility, when in fact it is the British Government who should have put in place systems to reassure the general public. Instead there has been a belief that if one ignores the problem of large scale movement of populations, including the escape of people fleeing war, it will go away.

    What plan has been put in place to screen people, and then ensure that those entitled to be here are given the proper care and attention that they will need?

  • Richard Underhill 2nd Dec '16 - 10:10pm

    Steven Carr: The Home Office does not use interpreters who have arrived via the refugee route. Some have arrived via the marriage route.

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