January 15, 2016 Leave a comment
Rob Lawrie is a simple man, who happened to feel a twinge in his heart. It is called compassion and it is a very human emotion. Lawrie knew this family in the asylum camps in Calais and he was attached to their little girl(Bahar). Over time the family had come to be his friends. His compassion almost landed Lawrie in prison.
How does one classify this situation. An Afghan family, whose fate had turned against them. They lived some sort of rural life in Afghanistan and I guess they must have called it normal. However, whatever the circumstances, they ended up in Calais in a camp. They were asylum seekers, with zero status, living at the Jungle camp. Not really able to go back to their previous home and stuck here in a veritable prison.
One cannot even blame the French Government or people. They, like others in Europe, are facing this refugee crisis. It is the sort of thing which requires a very big heart. The heart requires to be even bigger, if it is incessant and continuous. Attrition sets in, and peoples insecurity fires up. There is economic and emotional fall-out and it is very difficult for humans to face it. The French Government has been under severe pressure on refugees and more so after recent terrorist events in Paris.
Some of the pressure then translates into the quality of the facility. The budgets are stretched and so the Jungle camp is not exactly five star. Infact it is more or less like a slum. The cold makes it even more unbearable. Maybe it is deliberately kept that way, to discourage residents. This Afghan family like others, has been living there. In case we do not understand, this is really at the edge of existence; hunger, poverty, inadequate facilities. No one really desires this sort of existence. Especially the uncertainty and the lack of something to do. People are just there, all day long.
It is really the luck of the draw. A roll of fate and one who lives in a chateau in France could as easily have been born in Afghanistan. Or this very Afghan family, could have been born in Calais, spoken the tongue, had documents which were French, worked locally and may have been on the outside, looking into this very camp. That is the way fate dodges some and awards others. No achievement, just plain luck.
The Afghan father said at the trial that he had asked Rob Lawrie to take the girl to UK several times, but he had steadfastly refused. On his last visit, he came to see them one last time. Bahar slept in his lap. Even if a cat curls up and sleeps in ones lap, one feels attachment. Here was a small, innocent human. Lawrie must have felt a cascade of emotions. Guilt, sadness, love and plain old compassion. He succumbed and picked up the girl and took her with him to the UK. Its a dangerous place to be, when faced by emotions and doing an illegal operation. Lawrie got caught and landed up in court. But thank God for other compassionate humans. The court saw it otherwise. Lawrie’s life could have been ruined, instead he was let off. His interview post the trial, confirmed his emotional, compassionate nature. A decent human, who thought that doing equitable and right, is more important than doing just the legal thing. Unfortunately, despite Lawrie, the family is back in their camp and the young one still suffers.
The world has changed. For millennia people just traveled everywhere. Ibn Batuta traveled all over for 30 years and Marco Polo went to China for 25 years. There was no scarcity, no documents or nationalities. Within the last 50 years, as human civilisation advanced(?), our hearts have shrunk. We put up barriers and instead of thinking that the world and its resources were on lease to us for life, we now own them to the exclusion of others. We face a terrible period in the next few decades, as environmental damage and resource conflicts will create multiples of refugees, compared to the numbers now. As a reminder of compassion, I hark back to 1980, when 3 million Afghan refugees overnight landed up in Pakistan. The numbers peaked at 4 million and a majority of these have now faded into the local population. Others stayed for a quarter of a century before going back. Pakistan is a developing country with few resources and has probably paid an economic and cultural cost, but nevertheless opened its heart for its neighbours. In the case of Rob Lawrie, he showed this very compassion; I hope his actions are contagious and others follow suit.