Saturday, November 17, 2007

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Remember this from Great Expectations?

"Oh-h!" said I, looking at Joe. "Hulks!"

Joe gave a reproachful cough, as much as to say, "Well, I told you

"And please what's Hulks?" said I.

"That's the way with this boy!" exclaimed my sister, pointing me
out with her needle and thread, and shaking her head at me. "Answer
him one question, and he'll ask you a dozen directly. Hulks are
prison-ships, right 'cross th' meshes." We always used that name
for marshes, in our country.

"I wonder who's put into prison-ships, and why they're put there?"
said I, in a general way, and with quiet desperation.

It was too much for Mrs. Joe, who immediately rose. "I tell you
what, young fellow," said she, "I didn't bring you up by hand to
badger people's lives out. It would be blame to me, and not praise,
if I had. People are put in the Hulks because they murder, and
because they rob, and forge, and do all sorts of bad; and they
always begin by asking questions. Now, you get along to bed!"

I was never allowed a candle to light me to bed, and, as I went
upstairs in the dark, with my head tingling - from Mrs. Joe's
thimble having played the tambourine upon it, to accompany her last
words - I felt fearfully sensible of the great convenience that the
Hulks were handy for me. I was clearly on my way there. I had begun
by asking questions, and I was going to rob Mrs. Joe.

Seems hulks are back in (albeit Dutch) fashion:

Dutch float 'migrant prison' scheme
By Dominic Hughes
BBC News, Zaandam

In the middle of an industrial estate in Zaandam, just north of Amsterdam, stands the newest prison in the Netherlands.

Zaandam's floating prison
The prison is built by the side of an old wood yard

But the word "stands" is not quite right, because this prison is in fact moored on one of the country's many waterways.

And the inmates in this floating prison are not criminals but illegal immigrants, guilty of what the Dutch call an "administrative offence".

This is the answer to a problem the authorities faced in the late 1990s - how to separate illegal immigrants from ordinary criminals when you already have overcrowded prisons.

"It's easier to get a place on the water than to find land, plus it's easy to build," says Erik Nijman from the Dutch ministry of justice.

And he says a floating prison is also more flexible: "If we have a problem for example in Amsterdam, we can transport them over water."

I suppose the fact that these new hulks are for illegal immigrants whereas the hulks in Dickensian England were mostly populated by captured French sailors makes all the difference

Full story here:

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

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