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Coloured wristbands and doors aren't the real problem, attitudes are

By Lindy McDowell

Published 27/01/2016

Stand out: a refugee and his daughter wearing wristbands
Stand out: a refugee and his daughter wearing wristbands

First red-doorgate and then bright-coloured-wristbandgate ... It would be safe to say that some of those tasked with providing housing and catering services to migrants in England and Wales do not appear to be letting sensitivity and thoughtfulness get in their way.

That said - and believe me I am no defender of big business making a swift buck out of the misfortune of others - comparisons made in some quarters between refugees in Cardiff being made to wear coloured wristbands to get their meals and the Nazis forcing Jews to display the yellow star are just plain lunatic and vile.

It's comparing crass corporate stupidity with genocide.

Attributing malevolence to the wristband scheme is twisting something that most likely falls into the category "seemed like a good idea at the time". Witless, but not actually evil.

Similarly the policy adopted by another firm in the north of England of accommodating migrants in houses all of which had distinctive red doors, probably owes more to a job-lot of cheap paint and an attempt at creating a standard company look than malign intent to single out the occupants.

But that, of course, is what has happened. The occupants have been targeted. There have been attacks.

The firms concerned should surely have seen this coming.

There is an argument that the wristbands distributed to asylum seekers in Wales aren't all that different from the bands worn by holidaymakers in all-inclusive resorts. Or by revellers at Glastonbury.

The intention obviously wasn't to stigmatise but to exclude those not entitled. Fair enough.

But there is a bit of difference (whatever anyone says) between queueing at a refugee soup kitchen in Cardiff and lining up for the dinner buffet and Daiquiris in Lanzarote.

Why can't the asylum seekers wear the wristbands under their sleeves when out, some observers say.

Why don't organisers give them black bands that look like wrist watch straps?

The short answer is that it's not the colour of the wristbands or the wristbands themselves or the stand out red doors that are the real problem here. It's the fear of attack and abuse.

And in some cases not just the fear of attack ...

With or without wristband and door identification those attacks would still be an issue. The real issue.

And when people feel vulnerable it shouldn't be beyond the system, you would think, to anticipate and avoid marking them out for possible targeting.

These firms are being paid big money. More concerning than the door paint and wristbands I'd say, are reports on the conditions within the accommodation they provide.

Let's just say, it doesn't exactly sound like five stars on Tripadvisor.

It raises the question about whether the Government should be outsourcing the accommodation and care needs of refugees in particular (those who are not entitled to work here and thus are unable to earn money) to firms whose priority is all about turning a profit.

Would this taxpayers' money not be better, more efficiently and economically spent if all of it was being channelled directly towards those who need it?

Perhaps via a government body whose funding could be supplemented by contribution from all those celebs who suggested that they might take a migrant into their own homes - but never actually did.

The refugee/migrant crisis isn't something that's going to pass overnight. Whatever you think about immigration policy, these people are in our country - and more are headed here - and they should be treated with respect and human decency.

The red door paint and wristbands are in some ways an irrelevance. These things can easily be changed. Attitudes maybe not so easily.

But government needs to give a lead - not sit back and outsource its duty of care to the corporate sector. Public money needs to be used more intelligently, more efficiently. More compassionately.

Is El Chapo holed up in Coleraine?

I like the story about the mysterious tunnel discovered under Coleraine. 

But who built it? And why? Hmmmm.

Somebody who would want a very long tunnel perhaps as an escape route. One that ends up in that most unlikely of destinations - Kingsgate Street in Coleraine.

We could begin by looking at known builders of long tunnels who've hit the headlines in recent times.

Has anybody checked to see if newly re-incarcerated El Chapo's still in his cell?

New speeding laws drive me to despair

From next Sunday you will be fined in Belfast city centre if you drive at more than 20 miles an hour. You will be fined if you drive in a bus lane at rush hour. You will be fined if you drive in a 24-hour bus lane at any time. Even though we don't have 24-hour buses. You will be fined if you drive across some bus lanes. You will be fined if your on street parking ticket runs out - even by minutes.

All-in-all, a fine way to attract visitors to our capital city? I'm sure the planners know what they're doing ...

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