It’s two days before the NME Awards and, in a rehearsal room in London’s King’s Cross, a group of musicians are gathering to prepare a very special performance. What unites them is a belief that we’re in a time of crisis and we all need to do what we can to raise our voices.
Almost six years ago, a ferocious civil war broke out in Syria. With much of the country now controlled by so-called ISIS, there’s still no end in sight. Just like the victims of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, millions of ordinary Syrians were left with little choice but to flee for their lives. They packed a few belongings into plastic bags and set off with their children in tow. Most ended up in neighbouring countries Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, but some kept going and made the precarious journey to Europe. Many of those who hoped to come to Britain ended up at a camp in Calais, France, which at its peak was a makeshift home for 15,000 refugees.
For a time, the crisis made headlines, but before long our collective gaze drifted to Brexit, Trump and Bake Off. While we looked away, a million new refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan arrived in Europe last year. The camps in Calais and elsewhere were closed down, leaving many people homeless on the streets of Paris. In Britain, we’ve given refuge to just a few thousand. In the last few weeks, the Government announced that a scheme which promised to rehome 3,000 unaccompanied children in the UK will be scrapped after letting in just 350. That decision alone makes the idea of Britain as a compassionate country sound like cheap fiction – and it’s why the charity movement Help Refugees is currently in the process of suing the Home Office.