Refugees and the West

Image: Josh Zakary

Image: Josh Zakary

Up until last Wednesday, caring about refugees wasn’t particularly fashionable. You’d see the occasional story about refugees drowning as they tried to cross the Mediterranean. Very occasionally, you’d also see stories in the Guardian about how we have to make sure that we apply the correct terminology, as these people were refugees fleeing warfare and disaster, not immigrants ‘coming to steal our jobs’.

Now, suddenly, refugees are at the forefront of the media eye. Why? A series of photos of refugees who had drowned went viral in the course of a week, and the British public suddenly (apparently) took notice. From Wednesday to Friday, the photos of Aylan Kurdi, a 3 year old boy found washed up on a beach in Bodrum, Turkey, managed to gain the interest of the British public. Even newspapers normally dedicated to spreading the word of the evil of ‘migrants’ such as the Daily Mail are talking of the huge human tragedy that occurred; all sparked by the death of one child.

Since then, petitions have gone out to raise public awareness and call upon the government to act to end this crisis, or to protect the refugees. One such petition, started by the Independent, gathered over 220,000 signatures in under 48 hours. David Cameron and the Conservatives were thus forced to give a public response to it, and due to mounting criticism over inaction, pledged to increase the number of refugees admitted to Britain to 20,000 by the year 2020.

The problem is, many people are questioning how the refugee crisis suddenly got so bad. The obvious answer is that, quite simply, it didn’t. There has been absolutely nothing sudden about this crisis at all. We have known for years that millions have been displaced during the civil war in Syria. And we have known for years that they are fleeing to Europe, often by boat. We have also known for years that people are drowning in their thousands in attempts to cross from North Africa or Turkey to European territory.

For several years, we have been promising the EU and UN that as a nation we would step up to our promise of taking in Syrian refugees. Consistently, we have failed to honour our promises. In fact, we have done our utmost to ignore the plight of refugees; instead of helping to create purpose built camps to protect the refugees who have reached Calais, we have instead spent huge sums erecting fences and increasing the number of staff to prevent them leaving for Britain. Instead of assisting those who are attempting to cross the Mediterranean, we have removed our naval vessels from the task of rescuing those in danger.

This needs to change. Whilst Cameron was correct to say that this problem needs to be resolved at its source, we should still act to protect those in need. We should ensure that our media stops demonising refugees and, where applicable, we should ensure that the correct language is applied to them. These people are refugees, not economic migrants. We have a strong international voice, and we should be using it to ensure that these people are protected, not to condemn them.


  1. Hi Helen, this post really hits home for me. I am awful at detinalegg! I do give some invoicing and research work to a close friend who isn’t a VA because I trust her and have worked with her before. However when it comes to SEO work or working out a marketing plan for a client I too think it won’t be completed to the same standard or in the same detail that I put into the work. It is very silly really as I know the business can’t grow unless I outsource certain tasks I will get there one day!!

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  2. [bruno]: “1: The exile offer was not, to my knowledge, accmopanied by guarantees of US protection from international justice”[petes] Oh I get it now. The billion for Saddam was to cover the cost of airline tickets to a tribunal in The Hague.Given American “honesty” in its previous dealings with Iraq and other victims, that would seem to me to entirely be the case. But even if the Murkins decided to leave SH in peace, that doesn’t necessarily mean that other parties couldn’t take action.[bruno]: “2: You evidently missed this:…[petes] Forgive my confusion, what exactly was the point of those links?The point is to illustrate that there are many roads to justice, and that not all of them involve America and its ad hoc allies du jour playing at cowboys and indians.[bruno]: “3: Even IF your characterisation of Saddam’s ‘exile’ was correct, I submit that it is a no-brainer alternative to the subversion of international law, the destruction of a country and the butchery and displacement of millions of Iraqis by a bunch of (murderous) clowns who think that “them Ay-rabs hate us ’cause of freedom”.”[petes] Aren’t you forgetting that the clowns didn’t “do” it; they only “unleashed” it.Lynnette, is that you?(Oh, I see PeteS also plays your game.) To clarify the muddy waters: Iraq – (Saddam + pina colada) > Iraq + (unmitigated chaos – Saddam)[petes] “I suppose we have Bruno’s cast iron guarantee that nothing nasty would have been “unleashed” by paying Saddam to drink cocktails.”You can have my cast-iron guarantee that exiling Saddam and holding elections would have been far less ‘nasty’ than this tragic invasion.

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