31 Mar 2015
Brighton and Hove is to welcome a small number of refugees from the hell that is Syria. For several centuries the city has provided sanctuary to those who flee war, persecution and poverty. Rightly so. There will be those, myself included, who have concerns regarding the availability and affordability of housing in the city. This small number of Syrian refugees will have little impact on this crisis which is due partly to the huge flow of what can be described as ‘economic migrants’, the DfLs – those moving Down from London in search of a better life for themselves and their children. The DfLs effortlessly merge into the city. By and large, they are white. They speak the language. There is a cultural fit. They can afford the cost of housing. Their children are assimilated into local schools. Few question whether Brighton can cope with this level of immigration. For the Syrian refugees it will not be so easy. Their arrival will be noticed. Already it has attracted a centre spread in the Argus (25/03/15). Some will question where they will live and where their children will go to school. I am an immigrant who left the country of my birth for political reasons – to avoid conscription into South Africa’s apartheid army. Unlike many refugees, I had advantages, like a British passport. I spoke the language, and my skin colour didn’t make me stand out. But, as a new arrival in this ‘city of sanctuary’, I struggled. There were cultural differences. I was homesick. I didn’t know how to meet people and make friends. I was an alien. For the first few years I was bitterly unhappy. I hope our new citizens from Syria will find peace and happiness here, and I hope they will come to love their new home as much as I do.