Thursday, 3 September 2015

Refugees are not migrants

Last year’s Independence Referendum showed us the BBC truly is the British State broadcaster.  Much of the Corporation’s output is simply state propaganda: news bulletins tell us what the UK Tory Government believe we should be thinking.

Sky News operates along similar lines and is fast becoming a clone of its far-right, American sister-company, Fox News: Sky in the UK is certainly no friend to even moderate centre-left views.

Both the BBC and Sky use the description ‘migrants’ when referring to people so desperate to live they are prepared to launch themselves and their family onto the Mediterranean in unseaworthy vessels, hoping to make it to the safety of Europe.  The newsrooms of the BBC and Sky are staffed with well-educated, intelligent journalists: they know the difference between a ‘migrant’ and a ‘refugee’, which means that applying the wrong description can only be a deliberate act.

Again, news bulletins are attempting to shape our view to align with that of the British State, the right-wing, UK Tory Government.

No decent person could fail to have been moved by this week’s footage and photos showing the lifeless body of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi as he washed-up onto a Turkish beach.  Our politicians – Scottish politicians of all parties – reacted with almost unanimity.  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said, “I pledge that I will ensure Scotland will do everything possible to help in this refugee crisis.”

Unfortunately, because Scotland remains part of the British Union, the SNP Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament does not have the powers to play a full part in addressing the refugee crisis that is taking the lives of hundreds of women, men and children fleeing war-torn carnage in countries like Syria and Iraq.  Those powers lie with the UK Tory Government in London, which, of course, is formed by a party that has just one MP in Scotland.

A man called James Brokenshire is the Tory Minister with responsibility for ‘immigration’: following the tragic death of 3-year-old Aylan, Mr Brokenshire said, “Accepting more immigrants [to Britain] is not the answer.”

The following day, Tory Prime Minister David Cameron indicated Britain would “fulfil its moral duty”, whatever that means.  Cameron also continued to refer to refugees as migrants, so let’s clear-up why he, the BBC and Sky are wrong in their choice of description. 

A migrant lives in a safe and relatively prosperous country, but chooses to move abroad, for any number of reasons.  For example, I live in Scotland but have always fancied the lifestyle of New York.  If I decided to move to the USA, and was accepted to live and work there, I would be a migrant.

A refugee is something completely different, and there is no disputing the description.  The 1951 United Nations Convention on Refugees sets-out the legal definition: “Someone unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.”

The people – women, men and children – leaving North Africa and the Middle East in attempts to reach Europe are not making long-planned, cool-headed decisions to migrate to another country: they are fleeing persecution and the distinct possibility they will be killed because they are seen as opponents by brutal, ruling regimes.  People braving the Mediterranean in overcrowded open-boats are refugees seeking sanctuary and safety.  Decent people – that is, not Tories and other right-wingers – are united in the belief that we must do everything we can to help: we must offer protection.

Meanwhile, the UK Tory Prime Minister, his party and the English media (print and broadcast) make clear even ‘migrants’ are not welcome, with incessant references to those ‘Johnny Foreigner’ types who flock here to take our jobs (while, strangely-enough, also managing to live the high-life on benefits), and jump the queue for social housing and health-care, while ripping-off UK taxpayers in every way.  Again, this represents nothing more than right-wing propaganda.

Research by two respected academics - Christian Dustmann of University College London and Tommaso Frattini of the University of Milan – shows that, between 1995 and 2011, European migrants made a positive contribution to the UK of more than £4bn.  The net fiscal contribution of recent arrivals from eastern European countries that have joined the EU since 2004 amounted to almost £5bn.

Incidentally, an investigation by the Guardian newspaper recently revealed there were 30,000 British nationals claiming state benefits in other EU countries, far more than the number of ‘migrants’ receiving support from the public purse in the UK.

Contrary to the UK Tory Government, the BBC and Sky News, we are not currently witnessing a ‘migrant crisis’: we have a refugee crisis, created in no small-part by foreign policy decisions taken by UK governments led by Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron.

Refugees are not migrants: they are people who desperately need shelter, protection and safety.  We expect ‘our’ government to provide all necessary support but, sadly, while our Scottish Government wants to play a full part, the UK Tory government – the one for which we, in Scotland, did not vote – plays with words and, shamefully, declines to recognise reality and offer anything-like sufficient help.

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