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Hi, this is Gerry, and this is my News Digest for Friday 25th May, 2018. I’m going to start today with a big British scandal concerning immigration. Then there’s a little story about women’s rights in a piece of music I’m singing in a concert shortly . And I’m going to finish with the inspiring story of a medical hero.
Immigration seems to be a topic that’s never out of the news these days. It was a big story in Britain during the Brexit campaign, and it hasn’t gone away. Here are some of the things that people worry about. They worry about open borders . They worry about refugees  as well as economic migrants . Too many immigrants can change the culture of a country. Our health, education and welfare systems can’t cope with  so many immigrants. We can say therefore that a lot of British people think that, in general, there’s too much immigration into the UK. There’s a sense that immigration is out of control. The Brexit campaign slogan about “taking back control” of our country was very effective. However, when people are questioned more closely about what they’d like done  about this, things become less clear. Nobody wants people coming into the country to profit from  the health or welfare system, but most immigrants come to work. And most people agree that the country needs people: from doctors and nurses, to building workers, fruit pickers, cleaners and so on. We’re conflicted , as people say these days.
The story from the news that I wanted to talk about today is about some of the very first immigrants to the UK in the post-war years. After the Second World War, the British government realised that we were short of  labour  to rebuild the country, so recruitment  campaigns started in parts of what was then still the British Empire, notably  the West Indies and, later, the Indian subcontinent. We needed bus drivers, nurses and so on and we recruited them from the West Indies. A ship was organised to bring in hundreds of West Indians from countries like Jamaica and Trinidad. The first boatload  arrived on a ship called the Empire Windrush in 1948. This ship gave its name to the first wave  of immigrants that arrived in the late forties and early fifties. They’re known as the Windrush Generation. They didn’t have an easy time when they first arrived. They had work but it was very difficult for them to get housing. They suffered a lot of racial discrimination .
Our story now moves on 65 years. Mrs May is the Home Secretary  in Mr Cameron’s government. Mr Cameron has promised to reduce immigration, and Mrs May is looking for ways to do this. One obvious way is to get rid of  illegal immigrants. The government started talking about creating a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants. Unfortunately, a lot of the Windrush Generation, and especially the children they brought with them, don’t have British passports or anything else to prove that they’ve always lived here. Remember: we don’t have ID cards in the UK. These people couldn’t prove they were legal. They began to be refused health care or social benefits; they found they couldn’t work any longer; they were refused re-entry to the country when they had gone back to the Caribbean, for example for a family funeral, but using a Jamaican passport. Some were even deported. A British newspaper started reporting such stories a year or so ago but without getting much attention. Then in April the story suddenly became a big scandal. It led to  the resignation of the Home Secretary, Mrs Rudd, who got this job when Mrs May became Prime Minister. Everybody now agrees that the Windrush Generation has been treated in a terrible way. Every political leader started to say how much these immigrants had contributed to the country, how grateful we were to them – and this even included UKIP politicians, our main “anti-immigrant” party. It just shows how politically difficult a subject like immigration can be.
On my last show I was talking about women’s rights: this year’s hot topic, mainly because of the Weinstein story in America. Now, I’m wondering if there’ll be any protests after a concert that I’m going to be singing in in a few days’ time. We’re singing a Welsh piece about the life of one of the Celtic saints from the 6th century. He was called Saint Teilo. We have no reliable  story of his life – what we know is a mixture of fact and legend . There’s one episode in his story, however, that in the current climate  looks controversial. This particular legend tells of how Teilo and his friend David, who became the patron saint of Wales, were annoying a corrupt local prince. The good behaviour of the holy men reflected very badly on this prince, who was not at all nice. So the prince decided to set what we call a honey trap. We know about these from James Bond movies. The prince sent some women to seduce  the holy men. But the trap failed to work. The holy men called upon God to save them. The legend tells us that the women were then turned mad, and in that way the men were saved from temptation. No comment! What’s interesting is that the composer of this piece, William Matthias, wrote it in about 1962. Not so long ago. I can’t imagine that he would have included that bit of the story today.
And finally, here’s a story about an Australian man who has spent his life doing good. The Australian Red Cross estimate that he has saved the lives of more than two million unborn babies. His name is James Harrison and he has very special blood. His blood contains a unique antibody that can be used to give pregnant women anti-rhesus disease injections. Doctors discovered that Mr Harrison had this special blood when he was 14 years old, after he had had a very serious operation that involved him receiving a lot of blood transfusions himself. The doctors explained to Mr Harrison how valuable his blood was, and since then he’s been giving blood plasma every two to three weeks. He’s now 81 years old and he’s having to stop after giving blood something like 1,200 times. The search is now on for another super donor  with the same antibodies. Both blood and organ donations  are really important to our health service. On 1 December 2015, Wales was the first country in the UK to move to an opt -out system of consent to organ donation. This means that hospitals in Wales can transplant your organs unless you have registered your wish for that not to happen. Other countries in Europe that have an opt-out system include Spain, Austria and France. I read that there’s an initiative to change the system in Switzerland from opt-in to opt-out. What do you think about that?
And that’s it for today. Thanks to Florian, Nelly and Armin. They commented on my last show via the PodClub website (podclub.ch). On Twitter I’m @Gerrypod. And don’t forget the PodClub app with its extra features. I’ll be back with my next News Digest on June 22nd. Till then, take care!