Helping refugees does not mean ignoring poverty at home

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is an ever changing feast. It has been ever thus, since before the UK came into existence. Our islands have been the target of successive waves of migration.

My surname is Anglo-Saxon, and those peoples came to these shores as immigrants, refugees even. They assimilated, as did those that came before, and those that have come since. As a genealogist I know my family tree has a fair sprinkling of persons from outside of these shores; this will be the case with almost everyone who calls themselves English, or British.

To deny migration and the positive outcomes it delivers is to deny in many ways what it is to be British. Not only have we imported people, we are one of the more successful exporters of our people. Grab an atlas and look at the many places our cousins have settled in.

I have a son and two brothers in Australia, and a sister in South Africa. If I include my extended family the list grows. My siblings and others have taken partners from abroad too. My typical Essex family is a veritable United Nations if one peers closely.

I am the grandson of a refugee. My Belgian grandfather fled his home in 1914, returning to fight the German invaders, but eventually choosing England as his home after falling in love with my grandmother.

I have had a small number of people contact me because of fears about the settlement of refugees in Southend-on-Sea, often citing that we should look after our own first. Of course we should, but it is not an either/or situation. I would hope we could tackle the blight of poverty at home as well as offering succour to those caught up in the unfolding tragedy that is Syria.

The solution to housing shortages and deprivation at home is not to turn a blind eye to the suffering of those beyond these shores. This wealthy nation can and should meet its international responsibilities.