Opinion

We're stressed, but we still reach out a helping hand to Ukraine's refugees

The polls say we are less happy than we used to be, and that's no surprise. Yet we are still surrounded by good people, who want to assist others where they can.

man holding help sign

Photo: rebcentre-moscow / Pixabay

Britain is more stressed than happy. This may not come as a surprise. But it’s been quantified. At present, 44 per cent of the population say they’re stressed. There are 41 per cent who say they’re happy. YouGov ask the question every week. And every week since February 25, 2021, Britons’ main feeling, above any other possible sensation, not just stressed, has been happy. On February 25, 2022 that was overtaken by stressed.  

There are loads of subsets applied – whether geographic location, age or, it being the times we’re in, whether the subject voted for Brexit or not. But under every single one, on that date of polling, or within a week, every section asked returned the same outcome. I’m no John Curtice, but I can see that on February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine.  

However, this feeling of generalised worry and stress has moved in tandem with a wider desire to help. The DEC appeal raised £100 million in just four days. The charity Refugees at Home said over 1,600 households had approached them in the immediate aftermath of invasion offering to open their doors to people trying to escape the invasion.

At present three-quarters of Britons believe it’s right that the government support introducing a scheme to allow Ukrainian refugees into Britain. So, even in the midst of feeling stressed, of seeing the horrors and atrocities unfold in Ukraine, of feeling existential dread over threats of nuclear strikes and Chernobyl meltdown, of seeing the cost of living bite hard, of knowing that more is coming around regarding energy bills in a matter of days, millions of British people’s reaction has been to reach out a hand and help. Stressed, maybe, but good at heart. 

It makes the government’s ongoing catastrophic refugee response even more incredible. There is no good reason for dragging feet, for making life any more difficult, for opening an asylum centre in Lille that doesn’t allow walk-ins or appointments.

What lies behind the atrophy? Could it be a fear that if such a centre were opened then other refugees, not Ukrainian, would use it? And if they did, why not? Why not use this opportunity to offer hope and succour to even more people who need it?

There is something at heart of some of the decision-making of the government that looks incapable of doing what is right. The Ukrainian ambassador to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko, a senior-ranking diplomat and former head of his nation’s mission to NATO, revealed that he had great trouble securing a visa for his wife when he was appointed to his role in 2020!  

We are surrounded by good people. The Big Issue wouldn’t have existed for over 30 years without you. It’s not easy to keep challenging the powerful to do the right thing when they have a tin ear. But we must. 

And while our stress is not that suffered by those millions of Ukrainians, it is real nonetheless. There is no trick to beat it. However, there is a way to temper it, for a while. Watch The Great Pottery Throw Down. Some of the best, uplifting TV you’ll see this year. It helps. 

Paul McNamee is editor of The Big IssueRead more of his columns here.

paul.mcnamee@bigissue.com

@PauldMcNamee

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine. If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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