Belgian Visitor

Went to a couple of BBQ’s over the weekend … I don’t want to eat another piece of piri-piri chicken again for at least … forever.

The first BBQ was with some of the TV crowd I’m sharing office space with – nice party – nice people. The second was at my cousin’s it was just family but included amongst them was a cousin I’d never met before who was visiting from Belgium.

He was originally from Bangladesh and like many Bangladeshi’s before him his dream had been to get to Britain. Unlike my father’s generation though, he wasn’t invited to Britain or Europe so he had to try to get here by other means.

It was interesting listening to his experiences of Europe as, it has to be admitted, an illegal immigrant. (He has got legal status now in Belgium so no need for calls to the home office)

His route was via Turkey, through to Italy then France and eventually to Belgium doing whatever jobs he could find. Mostly working in fields, he said, which he enjoyed. He was an interesting chap, a bit of a dreamer and a little directionless. Nevertheless, many people like him are working in the fields and vineyards of Europe bringing in the harvest – when they’re allowed to. Government’s EU-wide turn a blind eye to this practice for obvious economic reasons. However, this unregulated labour market can sometimes have fatal consequences. Afterall, there are no unions for illegal migrant workers. (not that having a union would be of any help these days) Anyway, back to the Belgium Bengy cousin, he revealed that he had become a vegetarian as a consequence of not having access to halal meat. (at least he had access to plenty of meat this weekend)

While he was talking about his precarious existance I thought, why is he bothering anymore? In Bangladesh he had family support and status, he had enough education to be able to make something of himself and by the standards of the land he was privileged. Yet he risked life and limb and spent huge sums of money getting to Europe and the best part of his youth scraping a meagre living picking grapes for wine and avoiding eating animal fats.


I felt like telling him to just go back to his family in Bangladesh thinking that surely he’d be much happier in the long run … but on reflection, I decided against sounding like a Tory … it’s bad enough that I’m thinking like one.

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