A refugee, someone seeking refuge, usually from disasters such as war. They seemed to be in the news on a daily basis these days. Sometimes I think they are showing us the future. People fleeing famine, earthquakes, typhoons, and wars all across the globe. One common remark from various people is, “We need to help the women and children, but the young men should be sent back to fight for their country, instead of sending our servicemen.” The unsaid implication being “Then we can send them all back.” Often on the other side of the coin people say, “It never used to be like this. It is the centenary of the First World War, remember how we treated the Belgians. We looked after refugees then, we can do it now.” What is is difficult to know though is, what did people think? We can look at old newspapers, magazines and say “Look, we did treat them well” Most of the newspapers were wartime propaganda. They do not show us “How we felt” only “What made us look good”. So how did we feel about the refugees? This letter , reproduced in Supreme Sacrifice, by Walter Reid, Gordon Masterton, and Paul Birch.(ISBN 978-1-78027-3)50-1 first appeared in the Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette on 13th February 1915. Incidentally, the town is “Bridge of Weir.”
Sir, I understand we are having another 200 Belgium refugees coming to the town… … Would anyone be kind enough to inform me why our striplings and mere boys in many cases are being urged and almost shamed into these awful trenches and so many able-bodied Belgians skulking about the country, It is only humane we should shelter women and children of any stricken country, but I fail to see why we should be called upon to support a lot of men who should be in Belgium today fighting for their country…
Some attitudes never change. We have forgotten that when the fighting was over the vast majority of those Belgians went home. They have never forgotten how Britain treated Belgium. We never remembered why.
Now substitute Syria, for Belgium, and Syrians for Belgians.