Four years ago we all watched the horror of the Grenfell Tower fire unfold before our eyes. What makes this anniversary more damming is the fact that the that this time last year, there were still 2,000 high-risk residential buildings with dangerous cladding in England according to the Housing, Communities and Local Government (HCLG) Select Committee. Since then, the Government has refused to commit the money experts have said is needed to remove this dangerous ticking time bomb from people’s lives.
Watching live broadcasts of the tower being engulfed in flames and resident screaming for help was traumatic for the residents, survivors and the nation as a whole. None of the 72 victims should have died that night and the main reason they perished was due to one of the most egregious examples of corporate greed that put profit before people’s lives. Greed that resulted in cheaper, flammable cladding being used to make Grenfell Tower less ‘ugly’ to look at for their wealthy neighbours in Kensington and Chelsea.
Many of the Grenfell Tower victims who died in the fire were Muslim. We know that Muslims occupy the most deprived areas in London and across the country. We know they died because they were not well off and were considered not important enough to have their safety prioritised. Grenfell reminds us of the dangers of corporate greed, but also of the power of community as neighbours rushed to support the survivors, with mosques and churches throwing open their doors and volunteers, including from MAB, coming from across the city to lend a helping hand and step in where the Government had failed. It is utterly shameful that those survivors who were failed by the Government four years ago are still looking for justice today.
This anniversary must arrive with accountability for the companies, officials, ministers and decisions that led to the fire and justice for those who were killed, and those who survived. It must arrive with an iron promise from the government that not a single family is sleeping in a potential inferno. It must arrive with a re-commitment to creating a better society in which inequality does not produce another Grenfell.