Blogger Nishaat Ismail argues that Prime Minister David Cameron’s divisive language in relation to Islam, Muslims and the ongoing refugee crisis fans the flames of division and hatred in Britain.
Temperatures in the UK may have increased a few degrees this week but it hasn’t thawed the heart of our elitist prime minister, David Cameron. Two weeks in a row he has successfully managed to insult and ostracize the vulnerable. Last week, he implied British Muslim women unable to speak fluent English are somehow prone to succumbing to the deadly lure of ISIS and in PMQs this week he has once again debased those who have fled war and torture by referring to them as a “bunch of migrants” whilst criticizing opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn’s visit to refugee camps in Calais and Dunkirk.
This isn’t the first time Cameron has used inflammatory language to describe refugees. He has in the past used the term “swarm” reducing refugees to the status of insects and undermining the despairing situation in the countries from which they are travelling. To describe refugees as a “bunch of migrants” is simply dehumanizing. It is also inapt and ironic of the British PM to spew such contempt for a beleaguered people on the very day he commemorated Holocaust Memorial Day.
Cameron claimed that “as a father, he felt deeply moved” after seeing the harrowing image of a little Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi washed up on the shore of the Aegean Sea. One can’t help but question the authenticity of Cameron’s sentiments as there are unaccompanied children just like Kurdi dwelling in the forsaken and infamous Calais camp known as the “Jungle” whom he has now deprived of the basic right to be considered as individuals due to his choice of words.
Since the arrival of refugees from war torn countries intensified last summer, the discussion surrounding extremism, terror, crime and refugees has often been intertwined, in particular since the attacks on Paris in November 2015 and the Cologne sex attacks on New Year’s Eve. This type of narrative and the terminology used by political leaders and media alike underpin the fragility of a refugee’s identity and existence.
In a time of great instability and economic difficulty in Britain, it is easy for Cameron to indulge in his favorite past-time and scapegoat the wrong people by depicting immigration as the primary cause and produce of societal ills when in actuality issues like the housing crisis as well as lack of employment opportunities and low wages are a result of a disconnected and discriminatory Tory government.
This incriminating of refugees is a sentiment shared by leaders across Europe. Last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, French Prime Minister Manual Valls declared that refugees were destabilizing Europe. His statement is filled with sardonicism as France (and Britain) has contributed to the disruption in many of the countries refugees are fleeing. Both the UK and French PM’s statements are symptomatic of a rapidly increasing governmental derision of refugees in Europe.
Corbyn’s show of solidarity with those residing in inhumane conditions at camps in Calais’s Jungle and Grande-Synth near Dunkirk should be a shameful reminder to people like Cameron and Vall whilst they mingled with the world’s most wealthiest, of their incapability and ineffectual policies that are fuelling a milieu of hostility towards the refugee population in Europe and adding to the uncertainty and instability in their lives.
Terminology used by the higher echelons of power resonate with ordinary people and if the political elite continue to desensitize the European population to the plight faced by thousands crossing land and see in pursuit of safety, we will only see further division and chasms between different groups in our society.
I have met many of those individuals crossing various borders into Europe whilst I was in Macedonia, none of them were a “bunch of migrants” but people who had suffered unthinkable adversity, terrorized by a murderous government and forced to leave the land of their ancestors because nothing but death awaited them and their children. They were people who were desperate not to come and live off the welfare system but determined to put their innumerable skills and knowledge to use. They were eager to come and learn the ways and language of the countries they were hoping to settle in but that seems to be a distant reality when the heads of the states they hope to build a future in only know language that causes division and intolerance.
Nishaat Ismail is a freelance journalist who is currently completing a Masters in Middle East in Global Politics at Birkbeck University. She is also a contributing editor for the Moroccan Times.