by Maya Goodfellow Follow @mayagoodfellow
On Tuesday night a man was crushed to death by a truck in Calais. The next morning, David Cameron offered the following condolences: “I have every sympathy with holidaymakers who are finding access to Calais difficult because of the disturbances there”. The Prime Minister made no mention of the young, as yet unnamed, Sudanese man who had been killed risking his life to make it to the UK. Nor was there space in Cameron’s statement to speak about the 1,500 other desperate people who had attempted to make it through the Channel Tunnel the night of this man’s death. Although they were, we assume, “the disturbance” he references. That’s because these people are refugees and migrants; their lives don’t matter.
Since 1st June, nine other people have died in Calais. Among the dead are Ganet, a twenty three year old woman from Eritrea who was hit by a motorist; Moussa, a 17-year-old Eritrean who drowned in one of the Channel Tunnel’s several retention basins and Samir, a five-month-old baby who died after his mother went into early Labour when she fell off a truck. Nothing has been heard of Samir’s mother since. But these people are of no importance to David Cameron. Neither are the three thousand plus people living in the camp at Calais. The real issue here is inconvenienced British holidaymakers.
Migrants and asylum seekers have been dehumanised to the point that their lives are of no importance. The papers report that “migrants storm [the Eurotunnel”, as if they’re part of a medieval army making a power grab. In April in the UK’s highest selling paper a columnist described them as “cockroaches” and “feral humans”. And today Cameron has argued that a “swarm” of people want to come to Britain, despite the fact that most migrants and asylum seekers don’t try to enter this country. This is scaremongering, plain and simple. As has been pointed out whenever papers talk about “the Migrant Crisis”, they rarely refer to the crisis of being a migrant or refugees (the majority of people in Calais are the latter). In this context it’s easy to forget that these people are human beings, most of whom are fleeing war, poverty and trauma that Britain has played some part in creating.
This dehumanisation fits in well with the Government’s xenophobic policies, which are pursued in the name of balancing the books. Last year in the face of evidence that advised them to do otherwise, the Government decided they would no longer support any search and rescue operations for migrants and refugees drowning in the Mediterranean. By mid-April over 1,500 people had died. Then, just last week, they decided to cut the amount of money asylum seekers are entitled to, estimates suggest they will receive around 50% less than British benefit claimants. This tells us that the British-born poor are worth little, but foreign-born poor are worth even less.
It would be nice and perhaps all too easy to just blame this on the Tories, but Labour’s take on immigration hasn’t been much better. Although they defended Mare Nordstrom and urged the government to accept more asylum applications, they too have regularly dehumanised people from abroad. Plastering ‘controls on immigration’ onto mugs and proposing that all migrants must speak English – despite the fact that only a tiny number can’t – reinforces the idea that migrants and refugees are the ‘other’. Post-election, the majority of Labour’s leadership candidates seem intent on signing up to this same strategy. In doing so, they continue to tell an untruth that people from abroad are fundamentally different from ‘us’.
Since the days of Empire, the British Government claimed to be a benevolent power, bringing safety and protection to people across the world. This wasn’t true of colonialism and it isn’t true of domestic and foreign policy now. As a young Sudanese man was killed trying to make it to this country, dozens of people were being forcibly deported at Stansted airport. The message is clear: if you’re a poor refugee you don’t matter.
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Maya Goodfellow is a journalist and political commentator. She primarily writes about British politics and has worked as a researcher for a think tank. She also writes about international affairs, with a particular focus on conflict studies. Find her on Twitter: @Mayagoodfellow
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12 thoughts on ““The Migrant Crisis” The real issue here is inconvenienced British holidaymakers”
I agree that the economic migrants are dehumanised by the press and politicians in the UK, but are we in the UK responsible for every failed country in the world? Eritrea and Somalia were not British colonies. Do we just let every one in who turns up hoping for a better life? How would this work in practice and who would pay for it?
Aside from the reality that most migrants have little prior knowledge of the exact nature of each European country’s asylum system, it is not true that the UK is particularly beneficent.
the way that the Conservatives are beginning to behave is frightening, I fear that things are going further and further to the right
Media diversified is non media and censoring legitimate comments
LGBTs do not rule ok
Minorities with 2.5% of populations cannot bluff that theirs is a populist movement.
People are too intelligent and crap PC and PR is ineffective BS to any average intellect.
LGBTs are a storm in a tea cup event of no consequence .
Migrants should not place demands for human rights automatically onto Western governments given the corrupt origins of their native lands.
Western liberals might consider balanced arguments and not base their sympathies on Western ideologies exclusive to countries of origin of migrants.
These borders are imaginary. Look at Earth from space and your will see no borders. No one is an ‘immigrant.’ It’s disgusting how we, people of color, are consistently denied the right to just be. If they’re not wanted there, why not use all this hateful energy to restore their homelands?
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Have you tried crossing some of these borders?
The borders are very real maybe they should be fictional.
No, and you have made my point. It’s a struggle to even get a package thru customs sometimes. Man made these borders, not nature. Before them, all people freely roamed all lands, not “illegally” or labeled and immigrant for doing so.
Well said, Maya,I too feel sadden by unjust attitude of leaders who claim to be educated and just in their dealings. I am encouraged and feel others to understand for their own benefits as ‘JUSTICE BE GRANTED TO THOSE WHO FOLLOW’. Final World is essential, as this World is ‘transit camp’
THe rise of the far right in Europe and the right-shift of the centre rights has me seriously worried. Every day refugee homes are burning in Germany. There is not one day when there is no news about an attack. People who stand in solidarity with refugees are attacked. In Dresden, the fascists are trying to get their hands on a good foto of the spokesperson of “Dresden for all” so they can distribute it, saying openly “there’s not enough police to keep all of them safe all the time.”
Not only do they not care about the people who die trying to get to Europe, they actively want to killt hose who make it. They are confident in posting things like “GErman children should get hammers to bash in the refugee children’s heads” under their own names of Facebook.
And mainsteam politicians act as if those people were just “concerned citizens” with whom we need to talk gently, no matter how much suffering we’re inflicting in refugees in the meantime.
Well said, I was disturbed to hear the policies being made to stop immigrants coming in to England, to take advantage of the benefits. I feel that is not the reason they are coming, I found most of the low paying jobs were being done by immigrants, while British people were the ones taking advantage of the benefit system. We should be taking a more humane attitude, and help our fellow human beings that are clearly desperate. Where has our compassion gone?
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Maybe there was no compassion to begin with.
Maybe, but I would hate to have such a bleak view of society