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The All-Inclusive Wristband Letters Blog | Barrie Mahoney

'Writing Inspired by an Island in the Atlantic'

The All-Inclusive Wristband

Recent news articles about asylum seekers in Cardiff being forced to wear brightly coloured wristbands in order to claim their meals each day rightly drew both amazement and disgust from many decent people in the UK. This news broke within a few days of the ‘Middlesbrough red door’ controversy, whereby the homes of asylum seekers were targeted because all their front doors were painted red. Again, many people complained that this policy was wrong. Both incidents revealed an appalling lack of sensitivity towards people who require help and support during a desperate time in their lives.

The issue surrounding brightly coloured wristbands in the Welsh capital drew particular disgust, since any refusal to wear the wristband would simply mean no food. Some likened it to the enforced Star of David symbol, which was used by Nazi Germany to easily identify the Jews. The forced identification of any part of human society in this manner is both degrading and inhuman, and I can understand the disgust and public outcry that both incidents caused.

On a lighter note, I have never understood why so many visitors staying in hotel complexes in the Canary Islands, as well as other tourist complexes in other parts of Spain, are content to wear wristbands, similar to those offered to the Cardiff asylum seekers, which identifies them as ‘Breakfast’, ‘Breakfast and Dinner’ or the ‘gold standard’ of ‘All-Inclusive’. Now, I know that Madge and her family in the television comedy ‘Benidorm’ are quite happy to feast upon all that is offered for 24 hours a day, but do real holidaymakers actually want everyone else to know about it? In any case, do they really want to go home with a white ‘lack of sun’ ring on their wrists to tell everyone that were ‘all-inclusive’ characters performing in ‘Benidorm’?

I am not a great lover of the ‘all-inclusive’ deal. Yes, I know it is a godsend for those on a very tight budget, and particularly when travelling with children. I also know of the damage that it causes to restaurants, bars and other small businesses trying to survive on the islands when faced with competition from the ‘all-inclusive’ hotels, which are financed and backed by large companies with profits funnelled well away from these islands.

I too have been tempted by ‘all-inclusive’ deals on a couple of occasions, and had a very good time knowing that I could eat and drink without spending another euro for the duration of my holiday, but in the long term, is it really worth it? In addition, the boredom of eating in the same place, at the same table, with more of less the same buffet offerings each day made me feel as if I was in prison rather than on holiday. As for the obligatory wristband, I refused to wear it and, as with the asylum seekers, was briskly informed that I either wore it or didn't eat. I decided to wear it, but later cut it off, and devised a system with the help a piece of gum that would allow me to wear it only at meal times and remove it afterwards; unlike the asylum seekers, I got away with it.

Allegedly, the asylum seekers were threatened with being reported to the Home Office if they did not wear their wristbands and their claims for asylum would be rejected. Others suffered verbal and physical abuse from motorists and passers-by who spotted the wristbands. Life for the asylum seeker is hard enough without some heartless ‘jobsworth’ threatening to take away their only means of survival. Thankfully, on this occasion, common sense seems to have prevailed and both red painted doors and wristbands are to be dispensed with.

Now back to the ‘all-inclusive’ deals; may I politely suggest that hotels do away with wristbands and maybe consider some other form of ready identification that is less crude? How about retinal identification or thumbprints, or a quick flash of an app on the mobile phone that goes everywhere?

© Barrie Mahoney 2023

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