Belfast Telegraph

Why Europe's migrant crisis is a man-made disaster in waiting

On a bleak, cold February morning earlier this week, I watched a family hunker down for breakfast on the pavement outside the Gare du Nord in Paris. Mother, father, a girl of about 12 years, a boy who looked to be about seven and a babe in arms.

Between them they had some large chunks of bread and some small pots of what appeared to be yoghurt.

It was raining and their clothes including the baby's pink blanket were wet. But they ate with gusto before getting down to the day's business. Begging.

The father ambled off, shouting as he went a word of warning to the young boy who was straying too close, too often to the road and the traffic.

The mother established herself close to an office doorway appealing for alms from passengers spilling from the train station.

At one point a woman about her own age with a baby also wrapped in pink, walked by. Neither woman appeared to even notice her counterpart on the pavement.

Whereas the blanket swaddling the child of la yummy mama may have been cashmere, the cloth covering the street child looked like something a car engine might have been stripped upon.

Two worlds by-passing in one city street.

Around the corner meanwhile, the 12-year-old girl had now taken up her pitch beside a bank's cash machine. In between enthusiastic appeals and hectoring the bank's customers she was amusing herself by flicking litter along the street with the hem of her long skirt.

She looked like a little girl who had tumbled from a Charles Dickens tale of Victorian child poverty straight onto the streets of the 21st century.

As no one can now be unaware, a great tidal wave of humanity is sweeping north and it is depositing its poorest outside the ATMs and supermarket doorways of Europe's major cities.

Even over here we can see evidence of that - although at least here children get some protection. (What is wrong with Paris that it allows child beggars?)

But it's only when you go to one of the larger European cities that you see the real scale of recent human migration - and its most concerning aspect.

In a street near the Gare du Nord legions of men hang around telephone shops and food outlets. Legions of them. Where are the women? Are they still back in the countries migrants most likely come from - Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan? Or just back indoors somewhere?

France has banned the veil so there are no burkas in the boulevards.

You can't help feeling what a culture shock it will be for so many migrant women when, if, they ever get to France.

But culture shock works both ways and the most striking aspect of this recent influx of newcomers to Europe isn't so much the scale of it as this very obvious gender imbalance.

This isn't just mass migration but mass male migration. Europe's million man march. And how this will impact long term on the countries they come from and the countries they come to has yet to become clear.

What is fairly obvious though is that so many hundreds of thousands of families are now fractured and separated and the human cost of that and the implications of a massive number of young men who may well come to feel alienated and angry in their new land don't bear thinking about.

Europe's leaders were taken by surprise with the scale of the migrant crisis. Their initial response was fumbling and, worst of all, disjointed.

Unforgivably, it still is.

In France watching rugby? Je suis sober

We were over in France for the rugby. A trip to the Stade de France is a reminder of that country's strict rules governing alcohol promotion and sport.

The stadium is "dry". Outside there are beer tents but inside the grounds they only sell the alcohol-free stuff. Even what used to be officially called the Heineken Cup over here was dubbed the H Cup in France.

The tournament was sponsored by this same H beer company.

But you couldn't get H blocked at the ground.

Aintree style is horses for courses

I'm sure the organisers at Aintree know what they're doing with plans to up the dress code at the race meeting's Ladies' Day - traditionally a fest of orange flesh, expansive cleavage, much thigh and bad hats.

They're offering a cash incentive to "refresh" (I love that word) the event with a style code rather than a dress code. No, I'm not sure of the difference either.

And I sort of suspect that with the added incentive of "an incentive" the Aintree ladies may indeed up the style ante. In their own inimitable style ...

Belfast Telegraph


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