LONDON - In a dramatic twist to the annual Oxford Vs. Cambridge boat race, an unexpected contestant entered the fray - a dilapidated dinghy carrying refugees.
As spectators crowded the banks for a day of drinking, sport and temporary social climbing, the university teams set out to thrash each other- their goal in sight? Glory, humiliating their rivals, a little sweetener in daddy’s monthly cheque? Of course not- those good old British values of hard work, fair play and decency.
So caught up in the atmosphere were viewers and rowers alike that no-one saw the boat of displaced people tear towards the finish line until victory was assured, a stunning upset for the the gym honed muscles and public school-induced zeal of teams Oxford and Cambridge. As the refugees bobbed along the water, the initial cries were of derision; ‘Look at the limp rowing, it’s like they haven’t eaten for days!’, ‘why do they look so young? This is a man’s game!’, ‘can we please get rid of them like that hippy protestor?’
However, almost as if through sheer human desperation, the refugee boat was the first to cross the finish line. Spectators cited an unfair weight advantage in the number of those knocked overboard; others said the university teams were overcome by rowers who had days of experience on the open seas.
Reactions of the audience were mixed. One spokesman said: ‘We’ve always been proud of the diverse yet inclusive nature of the race- we’ll let anyone on the banks and one of the rowers isn’t even lined up for a peerage!’ Another attendee claimed ‘I think any of us would want to escape the horror of a war zone- but why do they have to come here? Not like we’ve gotten involved in their business…’ A redfaced barrister told us ‘Never mind securing the borders, ports- what about our lakes, tributaries… canals! That’ll sort this problem out.’
We recall the beliefs of prime minister David Cameron, describing refugees as a 'swarm of people', or our newspapers relaying narratives of an 'invasion of Europe' or mass 'economic migration'. And who can forget The Sun's Katie Hopkins writing "NO, I don’t care. Show me pictures of coffins, show me bodies floating in water, play violins and show me skinny people looking sad. I still don’t care," also calling migrants 'cockroaches' which the UN called the language of genocide.
As the newcomers reached dry land, their relief was palpable. Children laughed with joy, exhausted parents gave a sigh of relief; that was until a tugboat hooked onto the vessel, carrying the people back towards the estuary and, from there, who knows. But the punters ignored the situation as we've come to expect them to.
The situation for refugees trying to reach safe countries would be similar to this farce if it wasn't so tragic. Over this Easter period and beyond, donate, spread awareness, lobby your MP, sign a petition or do whatever you can to help desperate fellow people.