Last week, singer Lily Allen caused a stir by apologising to refugees in Calais "on behalf of my country". She had travelled to the Calais "Jungle" with the BBC to highlight the plight of unaccompanied child refugees living there. In the widely-circulated video of her visit, she met Shamsher Sherin, a 13-year-old boy who reduced her to tears by telling his story of how he fled the Taliban and was risking his life by trying to get to Britain. "It just seems that at three different intervals in this young boy's life, the English in particular have put you in danger," she said. While many agreed with Allen's sentiment – Diane Abbott MP, for instance, called her a "good woman" – there was an online backlash, with some suggesting she was "self-important", and newspapers implying she was spoilt by calling her a "sobbing luvvie" (Daily Star). However, there is some good news to come out of all this. Sherin, the boy featured in Allen's video, has arrived in the UK. He was one of the 14 unaccompanied teenagers from the Calais camp, which is soon to be demolished, allowed by the British government to start a new life in the country this week. He arrived at an immigration centre in Croydon, south London, and along with the other young refugees, was taken to a temporary foster home, reported the Daily Mail. They will stay with foster families until social workers have interviewed their British-based relatives to confirm they will be safe in their homes. Sherin left Afghanistan about nine months ago and travelled for six months before reaching France three months ago. He reportedly walked most of the way, and spent around £5,400 to travel by buses, motorbikes and cars through Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Austria and Italy, the Daily Mail reported. The Lily Allen backlash and counter-backlash isn't the only controversy over refugees to have erupted this week, though. After all this, when photos emerged of the small group of teenagers arriving in the UK, some (by which we mean mostly right-wing newspapers) questioned whether they really were teenagers, saying they looked older than they were claiming to be. The Daily Mail even put one of the refugee's faces through Microsoft’s face recognition program How Old Do I Look?, which apparently said he was 38 years old. The newspaper admitted, however, that "the software company cautioned it was just an estimate". David Davis MP even said the children should have their teeth checked to ascertain their ages and reassure the public. "If they are jumping on lorries, they are not going to be adverse to lying about their ages. We should do the tests," he said. However, Davis's idea was widely condemned and the British Dental Association said it would be unethical, the BBC reported. In a show of solidarity with the refugees, people then began sharing old photos of themselves on Twitter with the #RefugeesWelcome hashtag, to highlight that teenagers come in all different shapes and sizes.
These backlashes and counter-backlashes have happened despite the fact that the UK government is doing comparatively little to help refugees at all. Charities and religious leaders have criticised prime minister Theresa May for not letting anywhere near enough of them into the country.