Refugee Reverie

Rosy Bremer calls for Portsmouth City Council’s refugee policy to be informed by facts rather than myths and misconceptions.

Hats off to Donna Jones and her Conservative colleagues for their adept and skilful handling of the problem of refugee children and school places in Portsmouth. The problem, that is, of there being thirty-five vacant places in secondary schools across Portsmouth and no refugee children in any secondary schools in Portsmouth. Not everyone would be so swift to act where no absolutely no action is needed so it’s a good job we have Ms Jones, Luke Stubbs, Steve Wemyss and co. on the case, like sleek panthers pouncing on butterfly shadows.

Not everyone would be so stubbornly determined to ignore the facts, the figures and the numbers, nor so dogged in their grasp of the very wrong end of the stick. How blessed we are that the Council Leader never lets a good body of evidence get in the way of a prejudice, how lucky we are that her knee muscles are so strengthened, like those of her fellow Tory councillors and UKIP bed-fellows from all the twitching they get to do, in the course of their reactions to world events and local demographics.

Really, leg-joinings don’t come much jerkier, which is of course a laudable thing, as it saves so much time and bother when you just make stuff up on the hoof and don’t bother to do any actual thinking. Over and over again people stood up at the debate of the monstrous motion to pull up Portsmouth’s drawbridge on a desperately needy refugee population and gave well-researched arguments on the numbers of refugees in Portsmouth, the source of their funding and the moral imperative to afford international protection.

There aren’t many refugees, no refugee children in secondary school places and no-one is locally funded; most refugees are housed in the North of England if they make it to the UK and those that make it here are only a small percentage of the global refugee population, ran the arguments.

‘Ah-ha,’ countered the Conservatives, ‘But think how many might come here.’ Well done, Conservatives.  Never before have I seen the little green frog song transposed into another art form until it happened in the Council Chamber of Portsmouth Guildhall.  The little green frog song is great, it goes like this:

Mm mm went the little green frog one day
Mm mm went the little green frog
Mm mm went the little green frog one day
And the little green frog went mm mm ah!

But we know frogs go whoosh lardy dardy da
Whoosh lardy dardy da, whoosh lardy dardy da
We know frogs go whoosh lardy dardy da,
They don’t go mm mm ah!

It really was that surreal; there are the same number of Martians living in Canoe Lake as there are refugee children threatening PCC’s financial security with their entitlement to education; and an equal quantity of Allabooshes feasting off the fish in the Solent, luring the Gosport ferry to its death on Spitbank Fort as there are children from war-torn places wilfully absorbing the National Curriculum at Portsmouth taxpayers’ expense.

An Allaboosh, by the way, is a made-up animal out of a flip-up book with pictures and descriptions of various animals cut into three sections that you can play around with and get all sorts of improbable creatures.  But it might exist; no-one has yet disproved the existence of Allabooshes, in a similar way that no-one has yet proved that at some point in the future an unaccompanied minor won’t need to be taught in a school in Portsmouth where there are only THIRTY-FIVE spare places.  I am of course in no way comparing the inventing of a tri-partite animal with the way in which Conservative motions on refugees in Portsmouth are drafted.

As if it were not surreal enough that elected representatives and members of the public were forced to discuss the drafting of a letter to the Home Secretary along the lines of ‘Portsmouth’s done its fair share by not educating any secondary age refugee children; the City is really burdened by the thought that one day thirty-five refugee children might pitch up and in one fell swoop gobble up all the educational slack’. As if that were a sensible anxiety for a Local Authority, a small collection of people in early Hallowe’en costumes had seen fit to portray the Conservative-suggested policy on a banner lovingly draped like a valence on a balcony of the Civic Offices.

These people represented a far-right group “5W”; 5W apparently meaning “We Go Where We Want”, only that’s not 5W, it’s 4W+1G, isn’t it? Well no matter, sometimes you just have to set pedantry and accuracy aside (like when you’re Donna Jones and you find yourself running a City Council) in favour of a snappy combination of a number and a letter. The point is that these banner-draping ghoul figures were just the right backing non-vocalists for the decidedly extreme motion that has resulted in a letter to the Home Secretary requesting that she expressly exclude people of certain ethnic backgrounds from receiving goods and services in Portsmouth, arguably in breach of the Equality Act.

Good, too, that they didn’t say anything as the Council Leader isn’t in favour of people being vociferous and vocal. She thinks we’ve over-reacted to her very sensible suggestion that Theresa May grants a special exemption for Portsmouth so that out of all the dwellings in the kingdom, her City Council has Secretarial Disposition to disregard the terms of the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees and she was only thinking of us all along when she sought to shame the city with her unpleasant motion. Fair point, O leader of the Council; baa baa baa do what you like we don’t care, you are so sensible and not at all misguided and you are brave too with some ace debating skills up your flappy sleeves.  Just look how unreasonable this petition is.

War Is Peace; Love Is Hate; Portsmouth Has Too Many No Refugee Children In Post Eleven Education, None Is Far Too Much For Us.


While you’re at it please write to the Homes Minister as there are not enough homes in Portsmouth with chimneys for Father Christmas to drop presents to the good local children, not the bad refugee ones who have been traumatised and are far from home.

Then let me shine your shoes for you; you who should not have to face any criticism because you could never be wrong; you are the leader of the Council and we pledge obedience.

In your dreams, Donna Jones.

Photography by Sarah Cheverton.