Nowadays when we grow up, we are correctly taught that all men and women are born equal, that there are no superior or inferior races, genders or sexual preferences. These views are enshrined by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). However, in recent years the majority of European Governments and many of their citizens are unwilling to practice what they preach. By preventing refugees seeking asylum, we are in breach of article 1 of the UDHR (we should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood) and article 3 (Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person). Nevertheless, it is commonplace in today’s society to believe that refugees have no place in ‘our’ country, contradicting the idea that everyone is entitled to life, liberty and security, and it is certainly not in keeping with the spirit of brotherhood that the UN was founded upon. However, these opinions do not encroach on our values of what we believe to be a civilised society, although it should.
The general feeling of being a part of civilised society is nothing new and has probably been part of every generation’s attitude ever since society first manifested thousands of years ago. However, as society continues to advance, what was once considered ‘civilised’, feels further and further away. For example, today the vast majority of the western world look back at attitudes towards race during the 1950s with disgust and regret. However, at the time the segregation of Black and White individuals was part of ‘a civilised society’. When we look back at the slave trade of the 17th and 18th centuries we are unable to process how some members of humanity had no moral issue with chaining and shackling its fellow man. Yet at the time slave owners, as well as many poorer individuals, believed slavery was an integral part of a ‘civilised society’. Thankfully these attitudes have no place in Europe or America anymore, nevertheless, we still have a long way to go.
The way we look back at these societies actions will be the same way future generations look back at our current treatment of refugees; with disdain and disapproval. I like to think that as society continues to advance, the actions of our government and some of its citizens today will also be classified as ‘uncivilised’. Of course, we don’t live in a utopian world in which truly equal rights can exist. Unfortunately, it is too impractical for the complete free movement of every citizen of the world. However, when men and women are willing to risk their lives and that of their children in search of a better life and escape war, famine and poverty, it is only an uncivilised society who would turn their back on them.