Saturday, 19 January 2008

Watford is the new paradise

It's an unlikely proposition for most of us, but Watford FC is like paradise according to 19-year-old midfielder Al Bangura. That's because, after a tireless campaign by supporters, local MP Claire Ward, civil rights activists, the local community, the Club and the Daily Mirror newspaper, Bangura has at last secured a work permit in Britain and has thrown off the threat of summary deportation hanging over his head. The earlier Home Office decision to send him back to war-torn Sierra Leone would have been "a death sentence", he and his backers declared. He faced persecution and possible execution from the Soko Society sect had he been repatriated to the country he fled when 15 years old. It's a right and proper end to a dismal saga, which highlights the lack of perspective and compassion often surrounding the issue of asylum and refugee status in Britain, under pressure from a hysterical tabloid media and cowed politicians. We're a wealthy country, and we benefit from the huge disparities of riches and power which exist in our world today - ones that, along with some great football, I hope, will be on display in the African Cup of Nations starting tomorrow. That's why those fleeing terror and conflict (a tiny number, compared to those displaced in the global South) deserve fairness and dignity, not fear and loathing.

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