Abdou, born into poverty in 1940, remained poor, even by Nigerien standards. He owned a few gourds as drinking vessels, and his three robes hung from a hook in his hut. He had sold his only cow for 98,000 CFA francs to pay for the trip north. Samani was squatting on the bed of the large truck, on the left side behind the driver's cab. He had an 18-liter water canister behind him and was holding a bag filled with three shirts and three pairs of pants. He had paid 30,000 CFA francs, the equivalent of about €46 ($59), for a space on the truck -- the traffickers had waived a portion of the fare, because it was all the money he had. He had also bought some underwear with a zippered pouch in front so he could hide his travel money. Acquaintances had assured Samani that clothing was free in Europe. A friend who had made it to Spain told Samani that Europeans happily hand out sweaters and jackets against the cold. Europeans replace their household goods every year, says Samani, placing whatever they no longer need on the kerb. Even the taxi drivers drive Mercedes in Europe, he says.Clothing free in Europe? True. People can even buy a complete brand-new outfit for the value of an hour's cleaning work. Unwanted goods left on the kerb? Certainly true in my road, where children's toys and clothing, surplus novels, old speakers and bathroom shelves are left on the front garden walls for any passer-by who wants to take them. And Merc taxis? True also, but unlikely to be new Mercs. Still, it's astonishing that such simple tokens of affluence that we take for granted have grown to legend status amongst the poor, the hungry, the unclothed and the owners of just a goat or two and a few gourds to whom such things are beyond dreams of avarice.
Wednesday, 22 October 2014
Europe - An irresistible magnet
I defy any reader not to be moved deeply by the tragic tale told in Der Spiegel of an ill-fated attempt by a group of Africans to reach the Nirvana of Europe. I have written many times that one cannot blame immigrants for immigration; the fact that immigrants are here in such numbers is both a failure of border controls and a sustained campaign of anti-British spite and national self-hatred by the Labour Party. But primarily they are here because of our wealth; our economy and well-being are an irresistible magnet for the poor and aspirational.