Cameron calling refugees a 'bunch of migrants' dehumanises those in need of our support

By: Issy McConville, Student Voices Writer

Calling the refugees a bunch of migrants is far more than a choice of wording. It is an ideology, an effort to discount and ignore the suffering of these people. 

David Cameron sparked outrage during Prime Ministers Questions for referring to the refugees that are currently gathered in French camps as a bunch of migrants. The bunch of migrants he is referring to are the thousands of people who have been displaced from their homes, fleeing war and persecution from countries like Syria, Eritrea and Afghanistan, many of whom are young and unaccompanied children. And yet with a simple phrase, David Cameron has dismissed these people, lumped them together into a homogenous group under the banner migrant, a word which conjures up images of opportunistic foreigners, come to the UK looking for higher pay and an easy ride on the coattails of the British welfare state, responsible for undercutting the job market for deserving British people. It is a word that ignores the reality of the terrified and desperate people living in squalid conditions in French refugee camps, hoping for the chance of a better life in Europe. The word migrant does not represent the Sudanese man who was so desperate that he walked the entire 31 miles of the channel tunnel to reach England. It does not represent the mother featured on the evening news who begged journalists, I will go back to Syria. But please take my children. It does not represent Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler who drowned in the Mediterranean sea trying to reach the Greek island of Kos, for whom the world shed tears of anguish for last September.

The camps that these refugees are living in are reaching breaking point. The Calais Jungle, has swollen to over 6,000 people, and French authorities have begun bulldozing sections of the camp. In the lesser known Grand-Synthe camp in Dunkirk, little more than a collection of tents on the muddy ground, sanitation is poor and health issues like Scabies are virulent. It seems almost inconceivable to characterise those who live in such conditions as migrants. Surely no migrant would pay every last penny to a smuggler to attempt a journey on which so many have failed, or  take their children and place them on a tiny overcrowded boat over a dangerous ocean, just to end up living in one of these areas. These are not people hoping to make a quick profit at the expense of the British taxpayer, but desperate people who urgently need our sympathy and support.

Camerons comment came within an attack on opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, who recently visited the refugee camps and suggested that Britain should be a bit more human about this and process more asylum applications. Cameron also criticised Corbyn for his perceived weakness in proposing a joint administration of the Falkland Islands with Argentina, and for his commitment to roll back Tory trade union laws and allow greater striking powers to unions. Cameron ended by lambasting Corbyn for failing to stand up for hard working British tax payers. Playing off Corbyns concern for the refugees and his concern for the British taxpayer to score a political point feels deeply wrong, and only adds fuel to the fire of popular distrust and confusion about the refugees and especially those that are Muslim. In the widely controversial decision to commit the UK to engage with air strikes in Syria last year, the government agreed to play an important role in the conflicts that are generating these displaced people, but are now turning a blind eye when they are arriving on our doorstep.

Calling the refugees a bunch of migrants is far more than a choice of wording. It is an ideology, an effort to discount and ignore the suffering of these people. It calls to mind the Prime Ministers dehumanising reference to the swarms of migrants trying to enter the UK this summer, or the frequent attacks on refugees from the right wing media. It feels a little ironic that this happened on Holocaust Memorial Day, a day dedicated to the memory of the oppression and extermination of the Jews in Nazi Germany. It seems we have not learned from the lessons of the past and continue to find scapegoats in society, as the government and the media stir up distrust and hatred towards the most vulnerable. We cannot pretend that the refugees are just migrants, we cannot ignore their need. This crisis belongs to all of us. 

Meet the author:

Issy McConville
21 year student currently living in Edinburgh. Staunch feminist and Labour Party member  
Twitter: @issyymcc
Read my articles >
Cameron calling refugees a 'bunch of migrants' dehumanises those in need of our support Cameron calling refugees a 'bunch of migrants' dehumanises those in need of our support Reviewed by Admin on 16:33 Rating: 5

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