We Are Connected


EVENT: Sir Peter discusses international aid and immigration AUTHOR: Sir Peter Fahy

On a recent visit to Ethiopia I thought I had left all connections to Manchester thousands of miles away when I was welcomed into a hut with walls made of dried mud and a thatched roof. On the floor were poorly made chairs, mats and cooking pots – yet there on the wall, next to a picture of Jesus Christ, was a Manchester United poster. The hut had no running water but the woman who welcomed me in had a mobile phone. While there was no mains electricity in the village there was a satellite television running on a generator.

Manchester and rural Ethiopia may be miles apart geographically and culturally but through advances in technology – that mobile phone, that satellite television, that football league – we are connected. And sadly Ethiopia is one of the countries in which extremists are engaged in people trafficking and illegal migration.

I have been asked why we should help people around the world when there is so much need in the UK. This I suppose is a matter of faith, or belief, but certainly one of principle. You either think we are one human family or you don’t. However, if we want to deter illegal migration, combat the misery of trafficking and challenge extremist ideologies we have to be in the places where that journey starts.

It is vital to take the fight against terrorism to the places extremists try to infect young minds. One of Britain’s greatest strengths is our culture; all of the children I meet want to talk to me about the Premier League. That’s why football and pop music are crucial in the arena in which the battle of ideas, values and ultimately our security will be won or lost.

We can build higher fences in Calais, arm more police officers in London and extend the powers and reach of our security services on the internet. Yet my experience as Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police and police lead for the Prevent programme tells me we will fail unless we engage in the longer-term battles to raise the aspirations of the young and challenge harmful religious and cultural norms that seek to suppress them.