Paul Edie: Take the terrorists to task, not their victims

Two children peer out from inside a tent at a makeshift camp occupied by migrants and refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni on March 24, 2016.Picture: Getty
Two children peer out from inside a tent at a makeshift camp occupied by migrants and refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni on March 24, 2016.Picture: Getty
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I met my first refugee when I was at primary school. We were both six years old at the time and he had been thrown out of his country by Idi Amin.

Amin was a despot with a deep racial hatred of the Asian population of Uganda. My friend resettled here under the Heath government, a more compassionate government than we appear to have now and one which was not afraid to square up to the racial politics of Enoch Powell.

Many Ugandan Asians became active in British commercial life: tens of thousands of jobs have been created thanks to their entrepreneurial flair. While I haven’t seen my old school pal for 30 years or so I do bump into his uncle, who is a pillar of the interfaith movement here.

Later at high school my younger brother met another refugee, a Tamil, whose family had fled the civil war in Sri Lanka.

That particularly nasty civil war – aren’t they all – raged for many, many years and my brother’s friend and his family settled into Scottish life as permanent residents – Corstorphine being a far safer place to raise a family than the Jaffna Peninsula at that time.

Many years later my brother was accompanied up the aisle by his Sri Lankan friend who was his best man. He now is a successful psychiatrist and all of his family have been model citizens.

All refugees I have met have made a strong contribution to Scottish society. All have given more than they have received from the UK.

My experience belies the myth of the feckless, workless refugee put about by the Ukip types. Satirists mockingly refer to this stereotype as “Schrodinger’s refugee”, someone who is simultaneously stealing your job while lying around growing fat on benefits.

The reality, off course, is that refugees make a very positive economic contribution to the communities they settle in and, far from bringing lawlessness in their wake, crime is rare among refugee and immigrant populations.

Talk of immigration and Schrodinger reminds me of that great man’s experiences of British immigration policy.

In the 1930s Erwin Schrodinger was offered a post at Edinburgh University. Sadly, even though he was established as one of the most highly regarded physicists at that time, he was not able to join the ranks of the great scientific and philosophical figures who have settled here. The then government messed him about when he needed a visa and his talents were employed at Graz University instead.

Now I write all of this as a reminder, in the wake of the Paris and Brussels terror attacks, that people fleeing persecution and people who seek a better life here are not the caricatures that some portray.

The people who perpetrated the horrendous events in Paris and Brussels are precisely the people from who refugees are fleeing. These thugs, the killers and oppressors of families are the people we should be taking to task, not their victims.

Paul Edie is Liberal Democrat councillor for Corstorphine/Murrayfield