Say no to peer pressure and vote for who YOU want

With only days to go until the General Election you’ll probably have noticed the voices telling you who to vote for are shouting even louder now. And I’m not just talking about politicians but by people on the news and in particular, friends on your Facebook timeline.

There will be people posting daily status’ about how Corbyn should be Prime Minister because he ate a Pringle offered to him by a constituent at a rally, or how Theresa May’s kitten heels will bring about the best Brexit deal. Sound familiar?

What we all need to remember is that we’re not voting for the Prime Minister, we’re voting for our local MP. PMs can change at the drop of a referendum, we know that. We all saw what happened to David Cameron (awks). And PMs can be democratically replaced without an election because – whether rightly or wrongly – the people don’t vote for the leader of a party.

And remember that a British PM isn’t a dictator, they don’t work alone. They need a team of people, a Cabinet to do the job. So when you’re looking to vote, take a look at other candidates in the party too, watch and decide if they can negotiate and debate too because that’s what they’ll be doing in their job.

So don’t focus too heavily on whether Corbyn has done up his top shirt button, and concentrate a little less on what May’s reuse of her trouser suits and check out what your local MP has got to say. How will they affect your local community? What can they do for you?

British politics is set up to divide. There will be those people who are excited about the election and then there are the Brenda’s of the country who would have unanimously cried ‘not another one’ as yet again Westminster sets out to divide the nation. And that’s the crux of the problem: politics is divisive and there’s nothing that’s going to change that.

Each individual faces their own trials and tribulations; everyone’s circumstances are different and every person has their own issues close to their hearts. And it’s okay to think for number one – you’ve got to because no one else will truly understand how you’re feeling about your unique situation.

What winds me up is that British politics I’ve very good at causing a divide. Just take a look at the way our parliament is set up – the government facing the opposition – it’s designed to create an ‘us’ and ‘them’. And heaven forbid it works.

And then there’s the politicians themselves. Have you seen the sort of playground insults MPs hurl at each other across the room? It’s the kind of stuff that should be left on the playground, let alone spoken by the people who’ve been elected to run our country. If our politicians get away with calling each other a condom (yep, Boris Johnson called Nick Clegg a condom) then what’s stopping us from hurling abuse at our neighbours in the streets? What a fantastic example our leaders are setting.

So I ask you to do a bit of research yourself, ignore the people shouting their opinions at you on Facebook and make your own mind up, even if it means drawing a willy on your ballot paper just to make a point. Don’t vote the way your mates are voting for the sake of it, put an ‘X’ in the box that best suits you.

(P.s. Don’t slag off your pals for voting differently to you either, okay? To quote Aretha Franklin, show some R-E-S-P-E-C-T for our differences.)

Life Over The Wall In West Bank, Palestine

Abu Dis: Israel built the wall quite literally through Jerusalem. Abu Dis is a suburb of Jerusalem but is now separated from the city not by distance but by a wall that has created a completely different economy for those living in the West Bank.

Abu Dis: Children watch on in curiosity.

Abu Dis: Israel built the wall right next to a Muslim faith school, which was shut down after Israeli soldiers intimidated students from their watch post on the other side of the wall. They used guns, fire and other methods of intimidation. On the left side of the wall is Israeli run Jerusalem. On the right, East Jerusalem is run by the Palestinian Authority, who answer to Israel. 

Abu Dis: Inside the abandoned Muslim faith school.

Abu Dis: Palestinians are often forced to abandon their homes due to intimidation by Israeli soldiers from the other side of the wall, or because of eviction notices issued by the Israeli government claiming the occupants need to leave for ‘security purposes’.

Abu Dis: Children risk irritating the watching Israeli soldiers by playing in front of the wall as their garden is now separated from their house by the wall.

East Jerusalem: The wall divides landowners and farmers from their land. The land is then redistributed by Israel to ‘occupiers’ who farm the land for their own profit.   

Beit Sahour: Day 4 of the trip and  I cracked and cried. The day was filled with a peaceful walk through a beautiful village. The Palestinian women were happy because they had heard about its beauty but had never been. When we were at home in Bethlehem, chilling and chatting, my roommate and her sister got a call from her their other sister, letting them know that a girl had been shot dead at the checkpoint near their home. They knew that their other sister was passing through that checkpoint to pick the girls up. Everyone’s phones started ringing. They were parents making sure that their daughters were alive. It was tense. I tried to calm my roommate down, but the sisters were torn between feeling shocked and scared and frantic. Their phone rang again and they were told that the girl had been identified. It wasn’t their sister but a close friend. There was a split second of relief before panicked tears of anguish and terror and sadness. Then it was a rush to get them back to their village before the Israelis shut the border, barring them from getting home. Later, the Israeli news reported the story, claiming that the girl had attacked them with a knife. The girl had been travelling through the check point to get to an evening revision class because she had an exam. She was 17. This is lunch time earlier in the day, when the girls were happy. 

Hebron: The largest city in West Bank, Hebron used to be a thriving market town. However, due to severe violent intimidation from ‘illegal’ Israeli occupiers and sanctions issues by the Israeli army, the markets have all but shut down and the residents are often confined to the street they live in when the Israeli army shut down the checkpoints. It’s a very volatile city where violence could erupt between the occupiers and the Palestinians at any point. Army presence is heavy but the children still smile. 

Hebron: Here I am showing the smiling children their photograph.

Jericho: Jericho is home to the desert where Jesus allegedly wandered for forty days and forty nights. The girls in this photo are from all over the world, including the UK, Palestine – both sides of the wall, Belgium and France. For me, this photo just highlights the fact at the end of the day, all young women worry about money, boys and make up. 

Jerusalem: A family take refuge from the sweltering heat outside Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Jerusalem: Me apparently dressing to match the beautiful Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Jericho: My sister Chloë and myself found it a little overwhelming visiting all of the place we’d brought up reading about in the Bible.

Nabi Musa: These camels were parked up outside the mosque built where it is believed the prophet Moses (the one who parted the red sea) is buried. 

Monastery of Temptation: Me pointing out a sandstorm picking up in the city of Jericho. Right behind me is a monastery built into the wall of the mountain, supposedly built in the cave Jesus escaped to whilst he reflected for forty days and forty nights.

Jerusalem: The Wailing Wall. The Western wall is part of a fort built around Al-Aqsa Mosque. Centuries ago, the wall was part of the old synagogue that used to stand in Jerusalem. Nowadays, Jews travel from all around the wall to pray at the wall, which is considered to be one of the holiest sites in the Jewish faith. 

The Pope’s Mountain: The Bedouin communities are persecuted by Israel due to their lack of permanent address. Their makeshift houses are demolished and they are left with nowhere to go. In this photo, the rubble are the remains of Bedouin homes. The built up city in the background is an ‘illegal’ Israeli settlement. Israel built these communities in the West Bank under the guise that they would be for displaced Palestinians to live. However, when they were completed, they occupied the houses with Israeli citizens and gated them off with armed guards. The United Nations have numerously named them illegal but what can you do to the people living there? Displace them?

The Pope’s Mountain: A Bedouin boy stands on the rubble of a home. 

Hebron: A child plays in the street in front of a heavily guarded Israeli settlement. The occupants of the new build are ‘illegal’ Israeli settlers who commandeered the building through intimidation. Now, the building is guarded by the army to protect the occupants from possible attacks.

Hebron: In Hebron, illegal settlements have been built inside the city, preventing the Palestinian people from living there. The newly built white building in the background at the end of the staircase is an Israeli settlement. People living in that building are encouraged to throw chemical bombs, rubbish and hurl verbal abuse at the Palestinians in the street below. You can see metal grids and verandas have been put up outside the doorways to protect the residents when they leave their house. 

The Pope’s Mountain: A child plays on the gate that guards his Bedouin home that he shares with his mum and sisters near The Pope’s Mountain. The Pope’s Mountain is an area of land that was given to the Pope as a gift from Jordan in 1964 when Palestine was under temporary Jordanian rule. This land now stands in the way of the wall joining together. Israel want to continue their building work so the Bedouin community are once again being forced out. 

Jerusalem: The Wailing Wall where Jewish people come to pray. Palestinians and Muslims are forbidden from traveling in this quarter of the square. 

Jerusalem: The Middle East sell some of the most beautiful incenses. Frankincense or myrrh anyone?

Refugee camp: According to the latest figures from the United Nations, the West Bank is home to nearly 775,000 registered refugees, with around a quarter of whom live in 19 camps. Some  of the camps are located next to major towns and others are in rural areas. Some children don’t know any different.

Refugee camps: Around 750 000 Palestinians became refugees following the Nakba (Catastrophe) between 1947-1948.

Refugee camps: It’s always good to see the bigger picture. Here, someone snapped me being snap happy.

Refugee camps: The United Nations recognises the plight of the Palestinians and provide food bundles are needed by the people who can’t afford to live under Israeli Occupation.

Jerusalem: The four green doors on the right flying the flag of Israel are occupied by illegal settlers. One day, the Palestinian residents left their homes for the day, only to return to find their front doors barricaded with these hefty, green military doors and the locks changed. The settlers refused to leave. Although people who do this are deemed illegal by the Israeli government, they are very rarely persecuted. The Palestinians are forced to leave and find somewhere else to live, which is difficult as they are banned from building any more homes and there aren’t enough existing places to live. 

Bethlehem: It’s not what it looks like on the Christmas cards.

Bethlehem: Israel control the West Bank borders, and with it the imports and exports of Palestine. Many shops supply Israeli products, who’s packaging is written in Hebrew. Palestinians living in West Bank and Gaza are encouraged to take part in the boycott Israel movement, by refusing to buy Israeli products. 

Hebron: Not many years ago, these shop fronts in Hebron were open and brimming with customers. Now, they are subject to the laws of Israel who dictates when they can open, which isn’t very often. Some shopkeepers are forced to closed because they just can’t afford to stay open. 

Hebron: Below the tin canopies are the shops in the market. Shopkeepers have been forced to put up the metal to protect themselves from the things the settlers throw at them from above. Rubbish, bleach and dirty water are just some of the things thrown at the marketeers. 

Hebron: Jewellery seller at Hebron market. 

Hebron: However, some parts of the market are thriving. 

Hebron: A market seller who’s produce ranged from spices to live poultry in cages.

Hebron: The Palestinians are being forced out by Israeli settlers, room by room, house by house. 

Hebron: Residents have been forced to put bars on their windows to protect themselves from things being thrown through them, or even from people getting in to squat when they leave to go about their daily business. 

Abu-dis: It doesn’t matter how horrendous and frustrating life can be for the Palestinians, you’ll always find someone smiling. Someone told me it’s because if you don’t smile, you’d cry. 

Hebron: Children living behind bars for their own protection. 

Bedouin community: Some of the huts on the land where the nomads are forced to live are funded by the United Nations. 

Jericho: The views of the desert are breath taking. 

Hebron: Driving through the ram-packed streets of Hebron, Palestine.

Bedouin community: When Palestine met France. 

Bedouin community: When Palestine met England. 

 

Checkpoints: You’ll probably have noticed the lack of photos of the checkpoints in the elephant in the room in this blog post. It’s because taking photos of them are an arrestable offence. And considering the most murders of Palestinians living in West Bank happen at checkpoints, you don’t want to piss off the Israeli soldiers. Instead, I drew this illustration of what I saw. Checkpoints are horrible places. This woman was taking her son to hospital which was on the other side of the wall. He was motionless and his eyes were rolling in the back of his head. Ambulances are forbidden to drive through the checkpoint and you have to apply for a pass to get through, even if emergency care is needed. These can take hours, days or weeks to be approved. Israeli soldiers did nothing to make her passing through the checkpoint quicker – if anything they made it longer, making her walk back through the detectors just because. No one was permitted to help her. She wasn’t crying, she wasn’t screaming, she was just a mother trying to save her son. It was heartbreaking. 

QUIZ: How long can YOU laugh at Donald Trump?

Here’s a fun game for you. I’ve rounded up some of the best quotes ever said by the President-Elect of the United States of America, Donald Trump. All you have to do is see how many you can read before you stop rofl-ing (‘roll on the floor laughing’ for all of you oldies 😉 ). Remember to let me know how far you get by commenting below this post! Good luck!

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1. “I have never seen a thin person drinking Diet Coke.”
True dat Donald.

2. “The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.” 
There’s beauty in Donald Trump? You joker, you 😉

3. “It’s freezing and snowing in New York – we need global warming!”
When I’m cold, I joke about the legend of global warming too. Ha!

4. “As everybody knows, but the haters and losers refuse to acknowledge, I do not wear a ‘wig.’ My hair may not be perfect, but it’s mine.”
Okay Donald, whatever you say *eye rolls affectionately*

giphy-25. “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.”
Assuring us that your dick is big? Aw standard bloke, eh! 😆

6. “My Twitter has become so powerful that I can actually make my enemies tell the truth.”
Using social media for the greater good. A real life superhero.

7. “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”
Using ‘love’ to turn an aggressive tweet into a passive aggressive tweet. LOL.

8. “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?”
Buuuuuuuuuuurn.

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9. “Ariana Huffington is unattractive, both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man – he made a good decision.”
Ooosh! When Donald says the thing no one was thinking but made us laugh anyway. Lol.

10. “Yeah, she’s really something, and what a beauty, that one. If I weren’t happily married and, ya know, her father…”
Bit gross about your daughter Ivanka, but we’ll overlook it because The Donald is L-O-L.

11. “Blood coming out of her wherever.”
Alright, periods aren’t your fave! Thanks for pointing it out you comedian 😂

12. “I have a great relationship with the blacks.”
Classic ‘us and them’ 😅

13. “I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me. Believe me. And I’ll build it very inexpensively. I’ll build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”
Bossing people from another country around! Man’s got balls. 😂😂

14. “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Classic racist banter on Mexicans from The Donald.

15. “Now, the poor guy, you’ve got to see this guy: ‘Uhh, I don’t know what I said. Uhh, I don’t remember,’ he’s going like ‘I don’t remember. Maybe that’s what I said.”
Undermining a reporter with an impression of his disability. Such a joker.

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16. “Donald J Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States, until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”
Referring to himself in the third person 😂 All aboard the banter bus!

17. “Women. You have to treat ‘em like shit.”
Bit harsh but all in good humour, eh?

18. “I would bring back waterboarding and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”
HA! That’s a joke right?

19. “I just start kissing them [women]. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”
Erm, struggling to find the punchline there, hun.

When does Donald Trump stop sounding like a joke?

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When I went to the Jungle refugee camp in Calais

It’s easy to comment on something like the refugee crisis, particularly when it feels like the news is dominated with stories about refugees. About how their tragic journeys ended at the bottom of the sea, or those being forced to live in squalor whilst they seek asylum or how refugees are the cause of terrorist attacks, raped and disorder. It’s less easy to get off my fat ass and do something about it.

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Actually, that’s a lie. You just need a little time to spare and be prepared to slum it a little. There are so many different organisations calling for volunteers that all you need to do is drop them a line on Facebook and you’ll have a meeting point and a contact. I got in touch with Tunbridge Wells based Wonderwoman, Val Osborne, the brains behind the charity RefugEase, and volunteered in the Jungle camp in Calais.

Aside from my own personal adventure (sorting through the warehouse, piling into a van with eight strangers, being locked out of a crappy hotel room, sleeping eight in two beds, getting a flat tyre on a Sunday in France etc.) I really think it’s something everyone should experience. You can’t truly understand something until you’ve experienced it yourself. Of course, I’m not comparing my weekend volunteering in a refugee camp to the plight of families fleeing war-torn countries but going to hear their stories first hand is the closest I can get right now.

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Most of those living in the camp are men and teenage boys from all over the world, particularly Eritrea and Afghanistan. The reality is that boys and men are more likely to be fleeing because they are a) prime targets for conscription and because b) men earn more money. As a white, blonde girl from Kent, I’ll admit that at first I felt a bit intimidated. Another reason that I needed to go and see the camp for myself – to get over those occasional irrational presumptions.

The camp reminded me of a music festival, with it’s quirky, makeshift tuck shops and restaurants lining the main street. A bit like Glastonbury but at the end of the weekend when the stench from the overflowing toilets clings to the inside of your nostrils and bits of people’s beddings are strewn across the pathway and the see of damaged tents are a sorry sight. But the people were friendly enough.

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You’d be naive to think that every person living in the camp are refugees and this is another reason I wanted to go. I met people with stories of war torn hometowns, tales of young boys fleeing conscription, older brothers who feared for their gun wielding siblings. People recalled their fond memories of affluent homes in the up and coming areas of town, about the cars they have at home and about the families they left behind.

But I also heard stories of people who were offered asylum in Italy and Germany but had run away for a life in the UK. One man even told me about how he was already granted asylum in the UK and was given a British passport, until it was held by police when he was granted parole after being arrested for drunkenly assaulting a police officer. He then smuggled himself out of the UK to visit his mother in Afghanistan. It’s hard to sympathise when someone’s story starts like that.

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But then you remember where you are: in a stinking squalor. People don’t chose that for themselves. Refugees and economic migrants alike tell stories about sinking lifeboats, drowning friends, being smuggled across borders, walking across countries on foot, being rejected by the inhabitants of every city you travel through, leaving behind family and friends.

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And then it doesn’t really matter what their backstory is because at the end of the day these people are here and they need help. And if that help means a warm blanket to sleep under, sufficient food to keep them alive and a game of cricket to keep their spirits up them so be it.

<The problem is here, right now and it’s on our doorstep, so stop closing your door.

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Brexit means Brexit! Whatever the Supreme Court decides

It’s the case of the Brexiteers!

You may have seen in the news that the Supreme Court are making a decision on Brexit. And, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be filling in the blanks yourself (who’s got time to read more than the headline?). I keep hearing people cheering in the streets (sort of) that if the Supreme Court rule against the government then Brexit won’t happen! Hoorah! 

I just need to clarify something: Brexit is going to happen, regardless of the Supreme Court ruling.

Could you imagine the constitutional crisis that would cause if Parliament or the Supreme Court decided to overrule a decision that the people had voted for? (Because whatever way you look at it, the majority of those who voted wanted out of the EU) Could you imagine the whole can of worms that would open? Next thing we know, we’ll vote for a government in thenext General Election and the old government would say “er no. We don’t like your decision so we’re going to do our own thing.” And we’d just be standing there, waving our flag of democracy and they would stamp their feet on it. No, thank you for the offer, but I’m not so keen on that version of events. Count me out.

So what’s it all about then?

When the nation voted for Britain’s exit from the EU (and after the whole all-of-the-politicians-resigning-from-their-jobs debacle), PM Theresa May put a date on it. She announced that Britain will invoke Article 50 (the get out clause of the EU) by the end of March 2017. No ifs, no buts. This is when it’s going to happen. 

Now, this angered a lot of pro-European politicians who feel that this is far too soon to leave the EU, that it’s not enough time for Britain to negotiate the best possible exit plans with the European Union/the rest of the world. Many politicians believe that it is their right as an MP to vote on when Article 50 should be triggered and the government are executing non-existent absolute power to do this.

The other thing MPs are pretty bummed about is exactly what Theresa May is negotiating and with who. What are the aims? Who are we selling our souls to? While many politicians understand that the finer details of these negotiations need to be kept on the downlow, they don’t agree with how shady the government are over these deals.

So, in come the British Influence (also known as their catchier title the Centre for British Influence Through Europe). This is an independent organisation made up of people from all different parties who believe Britain is better in Europe. Now, they’ve hired an army of kick ass lawyers to take the government to court (yep, you can totally do that) in the hope that Parliament will be able to vote on how we Brexit. But of course, the government also has some kick ass lawyers. If this was the olden days, it would be an epic sword fight but it’s not, so complicated words being thrown around in a rather boring looking room will have to do. 

Now, back in November, British Influence won the case in the High Court who agreed that MPs should be allowed to vote on Brexit. Because we are a fair and gracious land (ha!) we are allowed to appeal a court decision. That’s exactly what the government did. They’ve appealed the decision and so the case has to be heard all over again in the Supreme Court. 

So you see, the decision isn’t if we Brexit it’s how we Brexit.

What even is the Supreme Court?

The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land. That means if a case has been tried in a lower court, like a Crown Court or a High Court, and someone appeals the decision, it may then be heard in courts higher up the chain until it reaches the creme-de-la-creme of courts in the United Kingdom. What they decide, goes. 
So the government is appealing that decision made in November.

There are 11 Supreme Court Justices (men and women in funny wigs, or if you’re a Daily Mail reader “enemies of the public”) who will be judging the trial. Starting from December 5th 2016, they’ll be listening to the case for four days and then will deliver a verdict in January. They all have to agree. 

Even though I just said that the Supreme Court gets the final say, it actually doesn’t. Because we’re still actually under EU law, the loser will be able appeal the decision again and it will be heard in the European Courts, then they will have the final say. Oh the irony, right?

What happens if they rule in favour of the government?

If they rule in favour of the government, then Theresa May and the rest of her Tory negotiators can continue on their merry way with their secret, shady Brexit plans. Like ripping off a plaster and getting it over with. As you were, men. 

What happens if they rule against the government?

Then the Brexit decisions will have to go to a vote in Parliament. Although this is fantastic democratic practice (so no one party is dictating the deals) it could massively slow down the whole process of leaving the EU. Although this is kind of the point, it is likely to have detrimental effects on a UK’s exit being successful. 

Think about it, in Parliament the votes never say “hi MPs, do you have a solution to this mega problem?” By the time the issue gets to Parliament, the question is “here’s the problem, here’s our solution, do you agree?” If the answer is no, the whole long ass process begins again to find an alternative solution. Could you imagine if that happened for every tiny Brexit decision?

The other thing to think about is that we’ve really pissed off the EU. They’re making it pretty clear that they want us to naff off asap. Like really ragin’. So, like a stroppy ex, they’re leaving us out of meetings and posh dinners because they’re saying that we’re not allowed a say on future EU decisions if we’re not going to be part of it. they have a point. But whilst we’re pretending that Theresa May not being invited to the EU Christmas dinner doesn’t bother us, this means we’re also left out getting chummy with future trade partners etc. Over all, the longer we’re excluded from these things, the dodgier our position is for the future. 

So…

So, the key thing to take away from this long-ass explanation is that Brexit really does mean Brexit. And if you don’t agree with what’s happening or you do agree with what’s happening, don’t pipe down! Keep saying how you feel about politics because we don’t live in a dictatorship and the people influencing policy is how this country works, not by people shutting up. So…

Keep shouting! (but still be friends)

The bittersweet destruction of the Calais ‘Jungle’

Today marks the first day of the destruction of the Calais Jungle. Around 60 buses will leave the camp, taking with them around 3000 troubled souls to accommodation centres where they will be registered and their fates decided. Tomorrow there will be 45 more buses and 40 the day after that.

Since 1999, the camp has grown from a few hundred tents to a home for around 6,000 to 10,000 refugees and migrants who are trying to enter the UK via the Eurotunnel and ferry crossing. Yes, there are showers, there are small businesses and some cafes and restaurants have electricity and wifi.

The majority of people living there are men because adolescent boys are the prime targets for Taliban recruitment and army conscription in civil wars. Families living in poverty tend to send their sons away in search of better wages because the sad reality is that men are paid more. There are estimated 400 unaccompanied children living in the camp.

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These guys run the Kids Café. Just inside the door is a hand-scribbled list of names pinned on a post. It’s titled: ‘Have you seen these children?’

The Jungle is a dangerous place. There is insufficient sanitation, poor washing facilities and sleeping arrangements are cramped, temporary and leaves people vulnerable. Drug culture and violence are rife. There are often intercultural clashes. Men, women, children and volunteers are victims of rape.There’s no one to protect a common law, apart from French riot police armed with rubber bullets and teargas. The camp needs to be destroyed.

People flee homelands from all over the world: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria; Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan; Bangladesh, Pakistan, Burma and Vietnam. They have all made the most horrific journeys with traffickers, crossing war-torn lands and seas in sinking boats. Some have lost friends, some family, some both. But when all seems lost, they find the strength to continue to reach their goal: the UK.

But seeing the destruction of the camp won’t make these people go away. We’re just moving the problem to somewhere else. Out of sight, out of mind right? Wrong. Because these people have gone through too much to give up at the last hurdle. And what about the people who are already on route? They’re going to keep on coming, keep moving towards to UK via Calais. Remember, they’re chasing a dream – a dream which the United Kingdom has sold them.

London Calling: Outside the camp, graffiti artist Banksy has sprayed a picture of Steve Jobs who was the son of a Syrian refugee.

London Calling: Outside the camp, graffiti artist Banksy has sprayed a picture of Steve Jobs who was the son of a Syrian refugee.

The news that the move has meant that so far around 70 children have been reunited with family in the UK, at least 43 of them young, unaccompanied girls who have been brought here to safety under the Dubs Amendment. Some have been taken into foster care, whilst others have been forced to stay in a ‘pre-departure’ immigration detention unit called Cedars near Gatwick airport.

However, as I write this, the latest census by humanitarian organisation Help Refugees has found that there are still 49 unaccompanied children in the Calais camp who are 13-years old or younger. All are eligible for resettlement in the UK under the same act.

I’d like to think that all of the residents of the Jungle are being taken somewhere safer and that their futures are bright. However, whilst the threat of deportation and trafficking still hangs over their heads, I can’t help but feel a little apprehensive. If I’m feeling like this then God only knows what it feels like to be a refugee in Calais.

How to deal with those racist Facebook ‘friends’

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Do you remember Nigel? You know, Nigel! The guy you met in the cheese room of that bar in Freshers Week? He was nice enough, so you added him on Facebook.

Over the years you’ve liked some of his statuses and some of the memes he shares are a right laugh. Harmless banter from a ‘friend’. Kinda.

Since the migrant crisis has become the top of the news agenda, Nigel’s been writing a few statuses about how the refugees are the ones who are stealing our jobs. Pretty standard.

And then the terrorist attacks on Paris happened. Nigel shared a meme; a photo of refugees that is captioned: ‘ISIS, coming to your town very soon.’

Nigel has also started to use ‘freedom of speech’ to defend his use of the term ‘rag heads’.

It makes you feel uncomfortable. What do you do?

The way I see it, you have two options:

1. Unfriend

It’s that beautiful option under the ‘friend’ button.

Simply delete the racist bastard from your timeline. You don’t see this person any more anyway so it’s not going to affect your social circle. His offensive comments will no longer confront you on your timeline. Out of place, out of mind.

However, if the person making racist comments is someone you’re likely to see again, say a family member for instance, you may want to consider option two…

2. Educate

Okay, so deleting the ‘friends’ who endorse the genocide of the global Muslim population certainly gets them out of your life but it means that they’re still out there preaching the hate to someone else. How about taking a stand? Turn your Facebook page into a weapon of mass education.

Make sure what your friends are sharing are factually correct. If you see racism on your timeline, report it. Maybe direct message the sharer and politely explain why their posts are offensive. Share news articles so that people can form educated opinions.

Don’t publicly shame people though, there’s enough hate crime out there without you getting involved. 

And there you have it. Don’t just ignore a problem, try to turn it on it’s head and help stop the racism.

However, sometimes in the life of social media – just like in real life – you have to accept that you can’t change some people’s minds so you have to let it go and walk away. So pick your battles wisely and your friends even more so.

And as for Nigel? You don’t need him in your life anyway. Unfriend.

The s(h)ituation in Syria

political cartoon fin

My first attempt at a political cartoon | @HollieBorland

I’ve been struggling to get into words how I feel about what’s been going on in the ‘war on terror’. Sure I’ve written some tweets and perhaps a Facebook status or two but I’ve really struggled to put it down in a way that won’t bore you. I know you’d probably much rather be tuning in to a tasty episode of ‘Simply Nigella’ but please bare with me for five minutes. Or 10. Actually more like 15.

There’s been plenty of times I’ve tried to write, once even on the bike at the gym. Every time I’ve given up. I feel a bit helpless you see.  I tried to write about how the Paris attacks made me feel, about how I worried about my sister living in France at the time, about what it was like going to Paris the weekend after, about how I felt about the UK bombing Syria but it all seemed a bit long and tiresome and quite preachery.*

I’m the daughter of a military man and the sister of a budding humanitarian so airing my views is often greeted with equally strong opinions. I’ve tried to speak about my stand but like many, I’ve been accused of being a terrorist sympathiser. So I’ve resorted to drawing a picture and putting together some bullet points. Sorry about the guff.

Nevertheless, here goes:

  1. At the time of the airstrike debate, France, US and Russia were already bombing Syria. I can’t see what our bombs can do that their’s can’t;
  2. For those saying that we should stand by our allies in these times of need: a) We stood by the US and joined the Iraq War. That’s been so great for us [sarcasm] b) Do you really think that in our hour of need Russia will fight with us? Hmm.. c) There are other ways to show support (see point 4);
  3. The government have said that our bombs have pinpoint accuracy. The debris from explosions caused by said bombs do not;
  4. If the UK technology for war is as advanced as we’re being told, are you telling me that we don’t have the ability to take down ISIS/Daesh’s ways of communication? Perhaps infiltrate the organisation and take them down from the inside? Put boots on the ground? The tragic truth is, we don’t have the troops for this at the moment…
  5. We (the Western world) have proved that we’re pretty good at taking down dictatorship regimes in the Middle-East eg. Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. We SUCK at implementing a stable government in the wake of war. Both Iraq and Libya are still unstable and civilians are still caught in the crossfire. Refugees are still fleeing;
  6. Why is it that our government is so interested in ISIS? What about Boko Haram? They’re an extremist terrorist group based in Nigeria who last year killed more people that ISIS. Is it perhaps because we have no interest in oil there? I don’t know, I’m just speculating;
  7.  To the people who say ‘well, we’re already bombing Iraq, and Syria is just over the border and there’s no point bombing Iraq if we can’t bomb Syria.’ Don’t bomb Iraq or Syria. See points 3, 4, 5, 8 and 9;
  8. If ISIS are such a threat, then stop selling them weapons. Who are the biggest players in the arms industry? The US, Russia, UK and France. Who are bombing Syria? OH… Also, has anyone else noticed that a lot of these terrorists seem to be using KALASHNIKOVS? Now that’s not a very Middle-Eastern name is it? I wonder what country they came from…;
  9. Children left orphaned after Western bombs kill their family are not going to be picked up by the state and put in an orphanage. They’re not going to be saved by the UN. No, they’re most likely going to be taken under the wing of IS and made into child soldiers. The girls will  probably be taken to be sex slaves. If you need any more information of what this means, watch ‘Beasts Of No Nation’ on Netflix. Or read this.
  10. Besides, if your family were killed, you’d want to get revenge on the people who did it wouldn’t you? You’d probably turn to IS to help you to do it. You’ve got nothing to live for now so there are no limits to how far you’re willing to go. Death and mass destruction? No problem.

#JustSayin

Anyway, we’ve dropped bombs. We’ve been doing that since just hours after the government voted to airstrike Syria. Our next move is to deal with it. We can’t undo it so let’s focus on how we can help the people who’s houses we destroyed. Because we can’t sit on our fat arses in the safety of our own homes whilst we fund the mass destruction of homes in a land far away.

Firstly, STOP whining about refugees. Because the more bombs we drop, the more people will flee and seek refuge IN EUROPE, THAT INCLUDES THE UK. Do you see the logic? So let’s give them a home.

It’s the least we can do.

*If you want to hear about that stuff, let me know. It’s kinda interesting.

For further reading:

Follow @WorldWideTribe on Instagram who are currently documenting the stories of refugees across Europe.

WhatsApp-ing to Syria… A few months ago, when I was working in Tovarnik, on the Serbia / Croatia border, I met some incredible Syrian guys, many of whom I've stayed in touch with as they've continued their journeys across Europe. Yesterday one of them told me about his friend who works for the media back home in Syria. He wanted us to connect, as he told me this friend had very important information to pass on to me… We started chatting on Whats-App. He lives in Damascus and is attempting to document the situation there. He sent me pictures he had taken… They made me cry. He told me there was no one left, many of his friends, his brother, so many innocent people cruelly taken from him, and the others had fled before their lives were taken too. What do you say to someone who is sending you pictures he has personally taken of children buried by rubble? Of a plane that drops bombs on his home on a daily basis, the bombs visibly falling in the shot. This Whats-Aap conversation looked strange between other chats with my friends about the weekend and Christmas. The images shocked me each time I found them in my camera roll. I just can’t get my head around the fact that this is happening now… This isn’t something I’ve seen in a film or read in a history book. It’s not like the Holocaust or concentration camps, things I look back on in horror and disbelief that they ever really happened, that normal people actually allowed them to. This is happening right now. We’re those normal people… You can see the other pictures he sent me and the whatsApp conversation on the most recent post on our facebook page. | #theworldwidetribe

A post shared by Jaz O'Hara | Worldwide Tribe (@theworldwidetribe) on

As always, follow Humans of New York on Facebook and @HONY on Twitter and Instagram. Brandon Stanton’s current project is documenting the refugees who have been accepted into the US. To see how messed up the selection process is, watch this brief interview.

What Ed Miliband and Mean Girls have in (House of) common(s)

Like when Cady Heron returned to North Shore High School after the Plastics disbanded, today Ed Miliband returned to the House of Commons for the first time since his attempt at running for Prom King in the General Election.

Ed’s comeback to the House was noted by fellow MPs who said that he was the most relaxed he had been in months.

The former Labour leader sat in the row second to the back in the familiar green benches smiling and waving to colleagues – but it’s his poker face that he needs to work on.

Whilst listening to Labour MP Clive Watts speak about a report into the FIFA corruption scandal, Ed was caught bearing a true Wallis and Grommit smile and mouthing ‘hi’ as he caught the eye of a colleague – probably Regina George – before immediately turning away and dropping a disgusted look.

Ed, that’s so not fetch.

Here’s a video I made for the MailOnline, via their website.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/embed/video/1188496.html

Read the full story here: Ed Miliband returns to the Commons via the Daily Mail

Queen’s Speech 2015: why you SHOULD care

So, the news has been dominated by the ‘Queen’s Speech’, and at 8 minutes and 29 seconds (it was a short one this year – the Queen’s average is 9 minutes and 50 seconds), it’s hard for us to tune in and take interest.

The Queen gives a speech at the opening of Parliament every year, outlining what her government is going to achieve in the coming Parliamentary year. She doesn’t write it, ministers do. What is the point of the Queen being there you may ask? Because we’re British and traditional and we love seeing someone who was born into wealth, wearing jewels and an expensive cape tell us about benefit cuts. We just do.

It’s what is in the speech that matters though because it outlines the Bills the government are pledging to pass and it will affect YOU. Do you care about how much tax you pay? About owning your own house? About schools? About jobs? About the NHS? About Human Rights? About childcare? About devolution? Then you should care about the Queen’s Speech.

Here’s a break down of the key issues addressed in the Queen’s Speech 2015. It’ll be worth a read, I promise.

© Hollie Borland

© Hollie Borland