Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Dehumanising the Desperate

Nearly half of the British public have little or no sympathy for asylum-seekers making the desperate journey across the Channel from France. Half of the British adults surveyed felt the UK does not have a responsibility to help protect migrants are arriving in England from France. Again approaching half of Britons believe that in comparison with other EU countries, the UK has “done more than our fair share to accommodate refugees” even though data shows that, in 2019, Germany received 165,600 asylum applications – the largest of any EU country, followed by France with 128,900, Spain with 117,800, Greece with 77,300, and the UK with 44,800.

The survey suggested that many among the British public may favour such increasingly hardline measures. Some in the public sphere accusing those making the desperate journey of being “economic migrants” rather than refugees.

Of course, such prejudices don't arise in a political or media vacuum. 

A group of Tory MPs and peers led by John Hayes insisted  that arrivals were “invading migrants” being put up in “expensive hotels” and enjoying “immediate access” to financial help.

Britain’s television news broadcasters have been criticised by campaigners over their coverage of migrants crossing the Channel, with claims that some of their reports dehumanise those taking the risk to make the journey. Stephen Farry, the deputy leader of Northern Ireland’s Alliance party, said it was not ethical journalism. “It is voyeurism and capitalising on misery. Media should be seeking to hold the Home Office to account, and the dark forces fuelling this anti-people agenda.”

BBC presenter Carrie Grace mistakenly claimed that “the rules state, around refugee and asylum status, that asylum-seekers should apply in the first state country they reach”.  There are no such legal restrictions on asylum-seekers.

Baraa Halabieh, a Syrian actor, interpreter and refugee living in the UK told the BBC explains, that the main reasons asylum-seekers come to the UK are that they speak English or have a family connection in the UK, and because the UK’s family reunification programme is faster than other countries. If it was for the "generous" state benefits that they were coming for, he points out, “If they were after the financial support, they would stay in other European countries where the financial support is way higher than the UK – they are not coming to the UK for £37 a week.”
The government was warned nine months ago that its own policies were “pushing migrants to take more dangerous routes” across the English Channel in an official report by MPs on the Foreign Affairs Committee, among them now Home Secretary Patel. The report called for the government to increase legal routes to seek asylum, improve “dire” conditions in French camps, and address the root causes of migration.

“These are people who are desperate, who have seen violence in countries, they are fleeing from places like Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq,” Gulwali Passarlay, who wrote an acclaimed book about escaping Afghanistan when he was a 12-year-old boy. Responding the group of 25 Tory MPs discussing “invading migrants”, Mr Passarlay told the BBC on Tuesday: “They have to look at themselves and have humanity and have decency.”

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