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RUTH MOSALSKI; Ruth is a Yorkshire-born journalist who is proud to have made Wales her home.

O MUCH, dear readers, for a kinder 2019.

SCall it a distant dream, but it's not long since I last wrote here saying that I hoped this year we would all get along in a kinder, nicer place.

But, it already seems that isn't to be. A huge, and key, part of my job is engaging with readers.

We're encouraged to (and enjoy) having a Twitter presence, Facebook pages and email addresses for you to contact us through. Because, basically, we want to write things you enjoy or learn from.

This newspaper and our website exist as a business and needs readers to engage (and by that I mean dig deep) for our product.

Because of that you are well within your rights to tell me you don't agree with something I've written and, often, you do.

Some things I write will annoy you, you won't agree with. Some of those neither I, nor my bosses, will apologise for, because they are important - they require debate.

But I was genuinely taken aback by the reaction to a piece I wrote at the turn of the New Year.

On January 2, I spoke to Robin Jenkins, a man from the Vale of Glamorgan who volunteers on a rescue ship helping stricken refugees from European seas.

He's been on a boat with 32 refugees, men, women and children somewhere in the Mediterranean. The boat cannot dock because the nearest country (Malta) would not allow it to.

They are running out of drinking water, food, supplies. The volunteers are exhausted, the refugees despondent and upset. In the end, it took 19 days for them to get permission to dock.

I don't know Robin, his political beliefs or his motivation. But, in the half hour or so we spoke, he wasn't preaching, scoring points or criticising.

He was asking for help from the boat he was stranded on.

I got off the phone to him a bit speechless. On a personal level, I felt inept. My biggest achievement that day had to been to collect an impossibly large order from Debenhams and get it back to the office without dropping it or collapsing through a Quality Street-induced fitness slump.

Professionally, I thought he had a hell of a story to share, one that I hoped you, our readers, would engage with, feel outraged by and try to make a difference to.

As a disclaimer, some of you did. But, I couldn't believe some of the vitriolic comments that appeared in response.

I am not naive about immigration or refugees.

But, as the very large hint my surname should offer, I support it. I believe in a world where, if you have space, time or money, and are able, you can help others.

Yes, some people will abuse the system. Yes, some will have turned down refuge somewhere else. Yes, they may use the system to their advantage.

But that's not everyone and Robin's point was that it is not his place to determine that, it's his place to rescue someone in danger and get them to safety.

Then, it is up to governments and officials to determine the right action.

He's an RNLI member here at home. The analogy he used was that when he pulls someone from the sea here, he doesn't stop to ask their political beliefs, have they paid their council tax or their thoughts on the extreme right wing.

He just has to rescue them.

But my family only exists, I only exist, because in the latter years of World War II, when there were refugees arriving at towns and cities across the world, someone offered my grandparents a piece of paper, passage and a spot in a former army barracks in Lancashire to call home.

I know it is not a simple topic. If I didn't realise the strength of feeling here before, the EU referendum vote showed that people are worried about too many immigrants coming to Wales.

With Robin's story, I thought (wrongly) that human instinct would win out and, partly, I thought it was because it wasn't about immigrants coming to Wales.

Surely, I thought, people will unite around the fact it is inherently wrong that any person, let alone a child, is stuck on a boat in conditions which are worsening by the hour because European governments with millions of pounds, resources and people at their fingertips are denying 32 people the right to put two feet on land for the first time in days.

But, no. "Sink the bloody ship now", "Send them back", "Believing well-rehearsed sob stories no doubt" were just some of the comments in response to the piece.

Some, possibly internet trolls, had nothing better to say than "Kill that person, they are not worth a life".

Have we really got to a point where that is our response to reading that other human beings could die because of bureaucracy? When I highlighted the staggering responses, plenty of people within my Twitter timeline expressed their shock, but what's also stuck in my mind was the response from Bethan Sayed AM, who wrote to me: "I'm not sure why you weren't expecting it. Every time I do something to support asylum seekers and refugees I get these types of comments online."

That is why my shoulders shrank a little, my heart sank earlier than I expected in this bright, shiny new year.

Absolutely, there should always be a debate. We need to learn from each other.

What we don't need is such bitter, twisted comments. Otherwise, what are we doing any of it for? @ruthmosalski
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 12, 2019
Words:933
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