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Sympathy to All Grenfell Tower Victims – Unless You’re a Refugee

As you may have heard, a fire broke out at Grenfell Tower in West London early Wednesday morning, devastating both local residents and the rest of the U.K. The police have confirmed there are at least 58 people are dead or missing, with the number expecting to rise as further investigations occur. The tower was home to working-class people of multi-cultural, ethnic and faith backgrounds, contrasting with the local affluent Kensington area, who were aware of possible safety threats within the building, with the Grenfell Action Group saying: “ALL OUR WARNINGS FELL ON DEAF EARS and we predicted that a catastrophe like this was inevitable and just a matter of time.”

Three victims have been named so far: 5-year-old Isaac Shawo, 24-year-old artist Khajida Saye and 23-year old student Mohammed Alhajali. In 2014, Mohammed fled the Syrian Civil War which began March 2011 and came to London in order to start a new life in safety. Family friend Mirna Suleiman has said that “After leaving Syria, he had not seen his family for 5 years and was forced to limit conversation in order to ensure their safety amid the crackdown against the opposition.” She organised an online petition aiming to bring Mohammed’s parents to the U.K. so that they could say their final goodbye to their son. Before he died, Mohammed made heartbreaking phone calls to friends asking them to tell his family in Damascus that he loves them. His mother is quoted as saying “Least I could do is see his body before they bury him, I want to kiss him and see everything that belongs to Mohammed.” Not only do his parents want to come to the funeral of their son, but to also visit their other son, Omar, in hospital. Omar escaped the fire after being separated from his brother within the blaze, and later rescued by firefighters. The petition seems to have worked, with the Home Office indicating that they will grant the family an emergency visa based on compassionate grounds, as well as £15,000 worth of donations to pay for his funeral.

Source – BBC News

However, not everyone is as supportive nor empathetic towards Mohammed’s family.

It really does amaze me how quick people are to demonise and alienate refugee families, especially in the wake of such a devastating incident. People died that night, brutally and horrifically in an event that should not have happened, an event that should have been a priority of both the local councils and the Government and yet people are more interested in perpetuating their ‘Us VS Them’ complex. Aamer Anwar, a human rights lawyer, said in an interview: “People died in Grenfell Tower because they are poor, and that is a disgrace in this country, in the 21st century.” However, this was not only a failure targeting working class people but also a failure targeting those we claim to give sanctuary to. Mohammed moved here because he wanted a better life. Because he needed safety and the opportunity to live freely away from danger. This country has failed to protect those that need it most and this time, we cannot scapegoat Muslims or scroungers or Millenials. This was our government’s fault because they care more so about money and aesthetics than they do about the most vulnerable in society. Marjorie Bahhaj, another friend of the victim, said: “From a government that starts war with its citizens to our government that neglects building regulations… when will all leaders care for their citizens?”

“It feels we, as British, let him down – he was supposed to be safe with us.”

The people that criticise Mohammed, the Alhajari family, refugees in general after this disaster are incredibly opportunistic, blinded by their own ignorance and hate for people outside of their sphere that they forget the real issues here. We killed their son, the son that came to us with trust that we would give him a better life. We took innocent children from the world because we did not want to pay £300,000 to fit sprinkler systems on every floor. We are a country that takes a moral high ground, that claims to be a role model for second and third world countries yet allow things like this to be whitewashed and go under the radar. Let his family come to the U.K., allow them to grieve as the rest of the country is, do not take their humanity away from them because they don’t fit your negative narrative of Syrian refugees and migrants. Allow Omar, who’s heart is breaking due to the loss of his brother find comfort in the family he has not seen in 5 years. You haven’t even let the smoke settle before allowing discrimination to take priority over people’s lives. This attitude would not be taken with victims of the Manchester bombings or London terror attacks. Stop manipulating situations in order to blame or villainize refugees. They’re grieving, hurt and shocked. They’re people, just like you.

If you’d like to donate to the victims of the Grenfell fire, you can do so here. If you’d like to donate to the firefighters that bravely put their lives on the line, you can do so here. My thoughts go out to all those affected. 

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Grace Middleton
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Grace is 19, a feminist, dog-lover, student, reader and constant overthinker with a love for writing and social politics. You can contact her at grace.emma.m@gmail.com.

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