Royal Navy: Please don't traumatize yourselves & migrants by sending people back to despair
I have always felt a sense of disconnect from the military, but that changed in 2018 when I became Lord Mayor of Bristol, a role which includes attending a number of military engagements. Whilst many of my Green colleagues struggled to reconcile this part of my role, my view was that it was an opportunity to learn and also influence through dialogue. I also understood that as Lord mayor I didn't just represent myself but the City of Bristol and that with civic duty comes responsibility. I met many interesting military personnel and came to learn a lot about the humanitarian efforts undertaken by the Royal Navy which more recently included hurricane disaster relief in the Caribbean. Amongst other responses to humanitarian crises around the world I often brought up the topic of migration in my conversations and in particular the refugees and migrants who would try to find safety via the Mediterranean route. I learned a lot through these interactions including how traumatized the experience had been for many crew members - tasked with saving lives or witnessing the dead bodies of the unfortunate brave souls whose only desire was to find safety for themselves and their families, whose lives were lost at sea, fleeing war or searching for a better life. Counselling appeared to be ongoing and significant to help deal with the aftermath of what was witnessed at sea. I am very concerned by the reports of the Navy now being used to push back migrants who are attempting to reach the UK via the Channel route. Since March the UK's ‘resettlement’ scheme has been paused, meaning those seeking safety are forced to seek ‘irregular’ ways to enter the UK. It is perfectly legal to enter the UK by water and make an application for asylum. There is no law that requires a refugee (with the burden on them) to remain in the first safe country they arrive in. As the fifth richest economy in the world, we have a duty to provide safety, and the Royal Navy efforts would be better spent ensuring safe delivery of humanitarian aid to the countries refugees are forced to flee rather than resourcing the sending of people back to despair.