An Accurate Portrayal of Calais

Photo by DFID – UK Department for International Development. The source of the photo is by Syrian children outside their temporary home, in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. From Wikimedia Commons.

In an increasingly war torn Middle East, we are seeing more and more migrants choosing to or being forced to find sanctuary in Europe. As such, Calais has now become a point of contention. Every day we see shocking videos showing the desperate measures people have taken to try to come into the UK. Yet, these are the only images we see. The media are creating an “us versus them” situation as the migrant crisis portrayed by the media conjures up a ridiculous sense of invasion.

The media would have the public believe this is the most dangerous problem in Western Europe. For example, the Daily Mail website has an entire section dedicated to the “European Migrant Crisis”. Yet they are simply following suit from our Government. Just last month, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond (speaking to the BBC) claimed that Europe “can’t protect itself, preserve its standard of living and social infrastructure if it has to absorb millions of migrants from Africa”. Whilst Theresa May believes migration to be purely economically motivated.

However, this is not a European problem. We are not plagued by war, dictatorships or foreign military interventions. Furthermore, most migrants are not African nor arriving by the millions. Yes, money will inevitably play a role, but this is because most Syrian refugees have none. Thus, the issues surrounding the reasons for migration are ignored and replaced by scandalous claims.

Actual statistics provide a very different picture to the migrant “crisis”. According to a Guardian article by Patrick Kingsley, 62% of migrants were refugees from the likes of Syria and Afghanistan. This figure would rise to 70% if migrants from Iraq and Darfur were included. However, whilst there is a very real need to provide shelter for the influx of refugees, the 200,000 that have hitherto arrived in the UK constitute only 0.027% of Europe’s total population. Whilst those arriving in Calais make up only 1% of the total number of refugees. This is not quite the shocking image some media outlets would have you believe. Furthermore, the pompous British belief that our “lucrative” benefits system is attracting migrants is absurd. Again, according to Kingsley’s article, asylum seekers are given just £36.95 and are normally not allowed to work. Yet, this is still far safer than where most are coming from.

This begs the question as to why there is such a focus on it by British politicians. Is it a distraction from domestic issues? Surely, narrowing our international relations can only isolate ourselves? This is a particularly fraught position to find ourselves in, particularly as the future of the European Union remains in the balance. If people (and yes, media, we must remember that these are people) are desperate enough to cling onto a train through the Channel Tunnel, live in damp squalor and earn nothing, then surely Europe as a leading continent in the modern world can give aid.

Are we that heartless in an increasingly technological society that there is no time for charity? David Cameron may agree with Hammond’s assertions that migrants will damage the economy but what is the value then of human life? Perhaps we need to focus on the source of the problem rather than the effects and bring peace to the Middle East.

The crisis is not with the migrants but with people’s humanity.

Global Seven News

Catherine McNaughton

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