British charity criticises PM’s language on migrants

Anna Musgrave from Britain’s Refugee Council criticises Prime Minister David Cameron’s choice of words over the ongoing migrant crisis, which he has blamed on a “swarm” of migrants crossing the Mediterranean and which continues to cause traffic delays in the south of England.

LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (JULY 30, 2015) (ITN) – British Prime Minister David Cameron came under fire on Thursday (July 30) by the charity Refugee Council, for remarks he made on the ongoing migrant crisis in Calais.

In a television interview Cameron had blamed the situation on a ‘swarm’ of migrants crossing the Mediterranean.

On Thursday Anna Musgrave, Advocacy Manager at Refugee Council, called his choice of language “irresponsible” and said Cameron had misunderstood the numbers estimated to be attempting to cross the channel through the Eurotunnel.

“I think it’s extremely disappointing to hear the Prime Minister using such irresponsible and ultimately dehumanising language. But I’d actually go further than that. I’d suggest that the Prime Minister is in fact misinformed. He was talking about the 200,000 people that we’ve seen making that treacherous journey across the Mediterranean. He suggested they were all en route to the UK via Calais. This is quite patently false. Estimates suggest we’re talking about 3000 in Calais, a tiny number of those that have made that journey and dwarfed by the numbers that Greece and Italy are receiving,” she said, speaking in London.

“And in fact I would say it’s incumbent on the Prime Minister to use, to show leadership, to use responsible language, to remember we’re a country with a proud tradition of protecting refugees and upholding human rights. And you know, bearing in mind that it’s understandable that people feel alarmed by some of the images that are coming through on their TV screens and that’s why it’s so important that the Prime Minister shows leadership on this and doesn’t fuel fears,” she added.

Some 3,000 migrants live around the Eurotunnel entrance in a makeshift camp known as “The Jungle”, making the northern French port one of the frontlines in Europe’s wider migrant crisis alongside Italian and Greek islands used an entry point for those crossing the Mediterranean from Africa or the Middle East.

On Thursday groups of migrants, including children, continued to access the tracks through holes in fences in attempts to board trucks and trains travelling to Britain from France.

Some 150,000 migrants fleeing wars and poverty have reached Europe by sea so far in 2015, the International Organization for Migration have said.

Musgrave explained that the world is in the midst of a major crisis, and that it is the poorest countries who are hardest hit.

“What we’re seeing is a symptom of the fact that the world is in the grips of the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War. The vast majority of those refugees are actually hosted by some of the world’s poorest countries. A small proportion are risking their lives crossing the Mediterranean in search of safety in Europe, and a tiny tiny proportion are trying to reach the UK. We must remember that the UK hosts only about 1 percent of the world’s refugees,” Musgrave said.

She went on to call for EU countries to look at their immigration policies, which she blamed for forcing migrants to take often life-threatening measures in order to reach safety in Europe.

“It’s important that all EU countries make sure that people have access to a fair asylum system. But I would say actually we need to look at the root causes of the problem actually, and we need EU countries to work together, both to address the root causes of why people are being forced to flee in the first place, but also to look at our immigration policies. Why are they getting on that boat in Libya? Why are they forced to try and clamber aboard Eurostar? It is because of our immigration policies that make it impossible for refugees to find safety through legal and safe means,” she said.

Meanwhile, freight and passenger traffic through the rail tunnel remained severely disrupted on the British side on Thursday.

Lorries bound for cross-Channel ferries in Dover remained parked on the M20 motorway in Kent as part of ‘Operation Stack’, which has been implemented to hold trucks waiting to cross the English Channel.