Mon, Sep 7, 2015
Disclaimer: I do not own a static caravan.
So as a complete bystander watching the migration crisis unfold in the media the first things I think are a) what are the facts and b) what can we do about it. I profess to being 0% qualified to offer an expert opinion on such a complex set of issues but I do think it’s necessary to look beyond the headlines.
Right now the papers and news outlets are streaming with refugee stories and there is debate in every household across Europe as to who should be offering sanctuary right now. The answer by the way is all civilised countries.
The biggest issue here in the UK is the argument (that has been ongoing for around 30 years) that we are “full” and there is no space to house yet more people when we have already have a housing crisis of our own. This is a valid discussion and is not one I intend to debate here.
But on the issue of space and “where will we put everyone?” in the short term, here is a proposal:
Let’s house people in Static Caravan Parks if we need to.
The obligatory cigarette-packet calculations.
Let’s just say the UK takes in 20,000 refugees (yep vs Germany’s 800,000 — although I know we do not have so much space). And in fact to do this calculation I will focus solely on England as we can simply use geographic counties (also did you know that the Scottish government has an objective of increasing population growth right now? More good reading over at http://migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/.
There are 83 geographical counties I believe, obviously all with differing population and geographical size. For the sake of simplicity we now equally divide the 20,000 refugees across 83 counties. That equals ~241 people per county.
Let’s now consider that many of these are families and children and being even more broad-brushed we’ll break this into nuclear families (241/4). That equals ~ 60 families per county.
According to the ONS there were ~6,686,700 families in England in 2014 (http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/about-ons/business-transparency/freedom-of-information/what-can-i-request/published-ad-hoc-data/pop/july-2015/family-size-by-region.xls). Although this report breaks down more exactly by region, let’s use our geographical counties again. So that is 6,686,700/83, equalling ~ 80,563 families per county already.
So to save people from living in some of the most frightening conditions imaginable we would need to increase each English geographical county from 80,563 to 80,623 (approx).
I know these figures are crude and things aren’t so simple in reality, but it is useful to remember that headline figures are less daunting when viewed in some sort of context. This is not intended as a definitive answer to a very complex set of issues, but more as an exercise in remembering to look at problems without the knee jerk reactions that often come from headline news stories.
The Caravan Park
There are lots of people raising money for shelter, offering clothes and even looking to open their doors and share their houses right now which is an amazing display of human compassion.
However let’s have a quick think.
We know that we are looking to provide shelter, warmth, food, sanitation, community support, comfort etc. Almost like a mini-home really. Almost like a caravan. Almost exactly like caravans in a static caravan park…
The summer holiday season is over and many caravans will now barely be touched until next year. The parks near to where I live go into winter mode and our towns get very quiet.
At just one park nearby I calculated earlier today that housing 60 families would take just 1/10th of the caravans available. But there are at least 4 caravan parks in my town alone. That’s just 15 families/caravans per park!
Caravans have heating, electricity, water, drainage, communications and home comforts whilst the parks themselves have amazing infrastructures, transport connections and stores for groceries etc. They are already designed to be homes from home with the conveniences of a town.
So could it happen?
Firstly remember this article is not “the answer”. There are many ways in which we can tackle these issues. What I would like you to think after reading this however, is of all the other potential solutions without being dazzled by the large headline figures. Well as of a few hours ago the UK government has announced that we will accept up to 20,000 refugees from Syria… over the next five years.
And obviously sharing houses, building temporary accommodation and loaning caravans are not long-term solutions.
There are also clearly many other issues e.g. Who picks up the bill? Would these be donations or rentals? Would our laws even allow it? Would park owners allow it? The list goes on but the same can be said for every problem.
But. If we need to find places to put people in the short term could this be a part of the solution?
One thing I do know is that if I did own a static caravan I would be more than happy to offer it as a temporary home to a family in need.