Church Attacks David Cameron for Describing Migrants as A 'Swarm'
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - The Church of England has made a dramatic intervention in the migrant crisis, delivering a stern rebuke to David Cameron for his “unhelpful” rhetoric.
Speaking with the backing of the church, the bishop of Dover accused senior political figures, including the prime minister, of forgetting their humanity and attacked elements of the media for propagating a “toxicity” designed to spread antipathy towards migrants, The Guardian reported on Saturday.
After another tense day in Calais, following a night in which fewer migrants tried to enter the Eurotunnel terminal in northern France, the bishop, the Right Rev Trevor Willmott, urged Cameron to ameliorate his rhetoric.
“We’ve become an increasingly harsh world, and when we become harsh with each other and forget our humanity then we end up in these standoff positions,” he said. “We need to rediscover what it is to be a human, and that every human being matters.”
On Thursday the prime minister drew international opprobrium when he described migrants trying to reach Britain as a “swarm” and promised to introduce strong-arm tactics, including extra sniffer dogs and fencing, at Calais. On Saturday No 10 announced it had also agreed with France to bolster security around Eurotunnel, with reinforcements joining the 200 guards already on patrol. Extra CCTV, infra-red detectors and floodlighting will also be funded.
Throughout Saturday disquiet continued to rise over Cameron’s handling of the issue. Willmott said: “To put them [migrants and refugees] all together in that very unhelpful phrase just categorizes people and I think he could soften that language – and that doesn’t mean not dealing with the issue. It means dealing with the issue in a non-hostile way.”
Save the Children also voiced dismay at the way political discourse had taken a “sour turn". In a piece published online by the Observer, Justin Forsyth, chief executive of the international charity, echoed Willmott’s call to remember the fact that the migrants were humans and many were refugees fleeing horrific abuse or extreme danger. “We are in danger of shutting our hearts to the desperation of the people pleading at the door, refugees not economic migrants,” he said, adding that Britain needed to pull its weight in accepting more refugees.
Pressure on Cameron also grew with the deputy mayor of Calais, Philippe Mignonet, branding the prime minister “racist” and Labour’s acting leader, Harriet Harman, revealing that she had written to Cameron accusing him of using “incendiary and divisive language”. She called on him to demand compensation from France for hauliers, holidaymakers and truckers affected by the chaos.
In other signs of the unease towards Britain’s approach to the issue, the UN special representative on migration, Peter Sutherland, said Britain’s attitude towards the crisis suggested the lessons of Nazism had not been learnt.
“Many of those in Calais are refugees, just as the Jewish people were in 1939,” he said. “They can prove they were – and are – persecuted and would be persecuted if they were returned.”
Reports from Calais on Saturday indicated that the situation had calmed down, with French security appearing to have ramped up their numbers in areas where migrants attempt to board trains and lorries. At the start of the weekend dozens of migrants could be seen trekking from the “jungle” camp to try their luck, a walk that takes more than two hours each way. But the groups gathered near Channel tunnel entry points and Eurotunnel freight loading areas were a fraction of the numbers that stormed police lines earlier in the week.
“It’s very difficult to enter,” said Alex, a 22-year-old Ethiopian hoping to reach Britain. He spent six months as a political prisoner and fled as soon as he was released from jail. He has already been in Calais for nearly two months, trying to cross almost every evening: “If I spoke more French I would stay here, but I will be like a baby, have to start again from nothing.”
On Friday night French police said around 800 migrants had gathered by security fencing with some 300 breaching the secure area. They acknowledged that dozens may have made it on to lorries and into freight carriages in trains.
Among new security measures discussed by senior government officials yesterday at a Cobra meeting were the promise of further CCTV and floodlighting to tighten security at the Eurotunnel entrance. It is understood that a new fence being constructed around the port at Calais will be completed by Friday.
It has also emerged that the Home Office is on the verge of agreeing a new deal with Kent to reduce the “enormous strain” that a surge in the number of unaccompanied child asylum seekers entering the county is placing on local services.
Among the details are proposals to help Kent disperse migrant children nationally and a multimillion emergency funding injection to help deal with the sharp recent rise in young migrants. Currently 629 unaccompanied children seeking asylum require care from Kent county council.
Peter Oakford, cabinet member for specialist children’s services at Kent county council, said: “I felt at last there was some recognition that this was a national issue and the government is prepared to work with us on this.”