Since when did the Tory press care about the lives of refugees?

Pictures of dead children look like a cynical bid to sell newspapers


It is a cliche that a picture is worth a thousand words. But pictures of the lifeless body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, a Syrian refugee who drowned off the coast of Turkey trying to reach Europe, are worth more than many thousands of words published by the British press.

The pictures, published on the front of the right-wing papers today, must come as a special shock to their readers.

All summer, they have been reading of migrants as a ‘swarm’, sneaking into Britain to rip off the taxpayer, being put up in hotels, sucking money from the welfare budget, and ruining the holidays of British tourists.

Calls were made in the press for the army to step in and pacify these greedy savages, (who live in a ‘jungle’ no less), as if people fleeing Syria and Eritrea have yet to experience violent force. Refugees were spoken of as other than human, accused of all manner of deception and criminality.

Contrast this with their tears for Aylan Kurdi today. 

Papers 3 9 15 refugee

The paper with the worst record on this, the Daily Mail, today laments: ‘Tiny victim of a human catastrophe’.

Its editorial begins:

Nobody could fail to be moved by yesterday’s harrowing images of lifeless migrant children washed up on the Mediterranean shore.’

But just yesterday the paper ran a two-page spread on the ‘misery’ of British holidaymakers after ‘migrants’ climbed onto a Eurostar train. As Left Foot Forward editor James Bloodworth commented: ‘According to the Mail, those fleeing tyranny and war are creating misery rather than trying to escape from it.’

The same point could be made about every right-wing paper.

Mail migrants Calais

So why have they suddenly noticed the plight of refugees?

Slowly the papers have grudgingly had to acknowledge some facts – that these people are refugees and asylum seekers, not ‘economic migrants’ or ‘health tourists’, that Germany and others have received far more people than Britain, and with vastly more compassionate and sensible policies.

Today’s front pages do not signal an outbreak of compassion in the press. After all, children have been dying in Syria for four years, mostly at the hands of Bashar al-Assad.

Given this context, the decision to run these pictures looks like a cynical attempt to sell newspapers. The pictures were being shared on social media last night, and aside from the direct horror and sadness they provoked, they were a symbol of the seriousness of what is happening.

The papers are seeking to mobilise this feeling – against the European Union. 

The Times (to take a moderately serious paper) insists we should ‘stand firm’ against German efforts to distribute migrants fairly around Europe, according to the size and resources of the country. Or as the Times puts it:

“It does not help for Germany to lecture Britain on altruism or the merits of a misconceived quota plan that Berlin wants to force on the rest of Europe.”

Other papers are more explicit in blaming the European Union for everything. So says the Mail:

“With tens of thousands more migrants flooding in, every day offers more proof that the EU as it’s now constituted just doesn’t work. […] if Britain is to remain in the EU … [etc. etc.]”

So nothing has really changed. The demonisation of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in the British press goes back not months but years. It has a shameful history that can be traced through our ‘proud tradition’ of accepting ‘legitimate refugees’, about which the same papers like to boast. (The Sun’s editorial today is a good example.)

Despite the pictures and headlines, the Tory press are not in favour of accepting more refugees. In this they are lock step with hard-hearted prime minister David Cameron, who has backbenchers and UKIP to consider, after all.

Showing people the horrors of what is happening is welcome. But it’s rank hypocrisy to weep for people you defame and refuse to help.

Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter

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47 Responses to “Since when did the Tory press care about the lives of refugees?”

  1. Roy

    They are economic migrants not refugees.

  2. Peem Birrell

    Funny that. Assad came to power in 2000. Don’t remember any refugee crises until the West started encouraging the Daesh nutters.

  3. I'm very cross about this.

    A dead child no matter tragic is not the driver for UK policy on immigration. Until we follow the lead of Australia and turn the boats around the problem; and deaths, will continue.

    All EU aid should be focused on setting up camps for these people in a safe haven in Africa and the navies of the EU should be patrolling the coast of Africa doing the sending back and not acting as a ferry service into Europe.

  4. Cole

    Oh yes, all these people are fleeing the war in Syria to get benefit in the UK.

    I hope nothing nasty ever happens to you. Don’t expect anyone to help you.

  5. not my problem

    How many of you are prepared to take one of these asylum seekers into your home until they “get on their feet” ?
    yes there are genuine case out there and im sure they will settle in the first county they safely arrive in but the truth is most refugees on the move through Europe now are people are only looking for a better life than they currently have

  6. Steve Finan

    I would.

  7. Giford

    If they are “economic migrants”, why are so many heading to Greece? More per capita than are coming to the UK, in fact. Is the Greek economy really in such a blossoming state that people are risking death – and their childrens’ deaths – to get there?
    Or do they, perhaps, feel that they are in greater danger if they stay in a war zone?

  8. Giford

    The European Union should set up camps in Africa?
    Even leaving aside whether internment camps are a good idea, what problem you think will be solved by refusing sanctuary to desperate refugees, whether there people will be an economic burden or an asset, and where exactly in Africa you mean… surely if the EU is setting up camps anywhere, they need to be in Europe?

  9. Nickola Randamonium

    I have a spare bedroom, it could accommodate a small family of 2 adults and 2 children. It’s a massive bedroom and my son leaves for uni for the next 4 years. Id be happy to let a family escaping a crisis in their own country, to come stay with me. Maybe I’d learn something.

  10. Nickola Randamonium

    I have a spare bedroom, it could accommodate a small family of 2 adults
    and 2 children. It’s a massive bedroom and my son leaves for uni for the
    next 4 years. Id be happy to let a family escaping a crisis in their
    own country, to come stay with me. Maybe I’d learn something. Peace!

  11. damon

    For how long? Until they can go back to Syria? That might be a decade.

  12. I'm very cross about this.

    Africa you mean… surely if the EU is setting up camps anywhere, they need to be in Europe?
    No I mean Africa. The parents of those 2 dead children lived; and worked, in Turkey and took a criminally stupid risk and paid 4000 Euros to be smuggled into Europe. The point being that maybe at one point this family were refugees but they had obtained refuge in Turkey; which is in Asia, and chose to become economic migrants and try to gain entry to Europe. Why are people obsessed with having them in Europe? The safety of refugees is the moral requirement not providing them with an alternative lifestyle to the detriment of ours.

    Turkey does have problems on its southern borders and with militant Kurds; not all Kurds are militants, but as one who worked there for 10 years I can confirm it’s a safe place with many opportunities

  13. dcomplex

    What if you found out they were Muslim fundamentalists/clerical fascists?

  14. jj

    Must be a massive room to accommodate a family of 4!!

  15. jj

    No, there have always been refugees. But now there are literally millions. It really started when the Arab spring (ie the people of Syria) stood up to their government, Assad got scared and retaliated, killing his own people to quash possible revolution (e honest, that wouldn’t have gone well either, look at Libya), then IS advanced in the east, and currently still is, so its not entirely down to the west!

  16. Luke Carter

    I have already volunteered to do just this. Not all people are so heartless

  17. Ashley Sharp

    You mean to suggest that Muslim fundamentalists/clerical fascists are fleeing from Muslim fundamentalists/clerical fascists? Interesting.

  18. dcomplex

    We know that is the case, yes.

  19. Ashley Sharp

    Prove it then.

  20. dcomplex

    Did you read about the huge riot and near-murder of an Afghan atheist who threw a few pages of a Quran in the toilet in a refugee camp in Germany like 2 weeks ago?

    Lots of Sunni fundamentalists are fleeing from the Shiite/Alawite alliance represented by Assad, Hizbullah, and Iran.

  21. Ashley Sharp

    And as usual, the fascist wheels out isolated examples to tar hundreds of thousands. Also, citation needed.

  22. Ashley Sharp

    Religious people get mad when you destroy literally the only book they have left in the world shocker

  23. dcomplex

    Shocker, you are condoning murder.

  24. Ashley Sharp

    Don’t be a fool. I’m saying that a refugee camp is a place in which no one wants to be, tensions run high. A small event can be the spark for violence. You try to suggest that if people are muslims, we should not allow them in the country. Your definition of “fundamentalist/fascist” is problematic, as we have both fundamental christians, and muslims, and fascists in this country already- would you have these people deported?

    Shocker, you’re a moron.

  25. dcomplex

    Absolutely I would have them deported without even a second thought. If a bunch of Christian ‘refugees’ did the same thing when somebody desecrated a bible I’d have the lot of them deported too. Attempted murder is attempted murder, and you’re sitting here trying to justify it.

  26. dcomplex

    This is why a recent article in the spectator made fun of the far left for trying to prevent the deportation of generic terrorist Islamic fundamentalist “Mohammed Jihadi al-Semtex”.

  27. Ashley Sharp

    Your logical fallacy is strawman.

    Understanding why something happens is not the same as justifying the action. What you’re displaying is both a fundamental lack of understanding and a woeful level of ignorance as to why people become refugees. Funnily enough, it’s not for economic reasons. That is called economic migration. Are all these people perfect? no. Are we? definitely not. We are however in a position to help, and we should do so. It is people like you who would have turned the jews away in the 1930s and 40s.

  28. Ashley Sharp

    cites the spectator >>> hahahaaha.

  29. dcomplex

    Laugh it up, but don’t come crying to me when Mohammed Jihadi al-Semtex opens up a terrorist lab in your son’s bedroom.

  30. Ashley Sharp

    oh my you are precious 😀 Keep living in fear, sweetie.

  31. Ashley Sharp

    “The crowd then turned their anger to the security services as they protected the alleged offender. More than 50 men, mostly Syrian refugees, armed themselves with steel rods and began throwing rocks at guards and policemen.”

    “huge riot and near-murder”

    Not huge. Not a riot. Not a murder. Stop lying.

  32. dcomplex

    Oh yes those Jews in their terrorist campaign in Germany’s civil war.

    *rolleyes* puh-lease. The obvious place to send Europe’s Jewish refugees was Mandate Palestine, but the Government wanted to appease who? Oh right, the Muslims again. The Jews could have been saved without a “Jewish Invasion” of British shores (and even so, there were only around 15 million Jews in the whole world, and only about 3 million who could have even conceivably been brought to Britain (many of whom would have enthusiastically joined the War Effort). Tell me, how many Syrians and Iraqis are there? Should Britain take them all in? They’d overwhelm the native population.

  33. dcomplex

    What do you think they were going to do to him? Do you think it’s okay that they began to attack police? Do you want these violent fanatics on British shores?

  34. dcomplex

    Also, fine, you don’t like “huge riot and near-murder”? How about “frustrated lynch mob”?

  35. Ashley Sharp

    Your prejudice is showing. The vast majority of muslims are peaceful people, not terrorists. I think you’ll find that appeasement of muslims was the last thing on the minds of the British government at that time.

    “Tell me, how many Syrians and Iraqis are there?” Lots. Lots of them displaced by wars we started or aided in.

    ” Should Britain take them all in?” no one is suggesting that.

    “They’d overwhelm the native population.” No they wouldn’t. There’s 70 million of us. There’s not that many refugees, even if we were to help all of them, which we won’t, as it’ll be a joint european effort led by Germany (thanks to pressure from their population to help) so your question here is both leading and ridiculous.

  36. Ashley Sharp

    “violent fanatics” I’ve already addressed why there was aggression. Do I think these people are violent, 100% of the time? no. Are you a tosser, 100% of the time? I’d hope not, but you never can tell.

  37. Ashley Sharp

    And yeah, they were probably going to kick his ass. Murder? unlikely. They armed themselves when the police got involved. Prior to that, no weapons. What does that tell you?

  38. dcomplex

    You are 100% wrong. Look up the reasoning behind the MacDonald White paper of 1939. They were appeasing a Muslim-Arab campaign of violence (that had been funded by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany) that had occurred 1936-1936 called the “Arab revolt in Palestine” led by Nazi collaborator and war criminal Haj Amin el-Husseini (who escaped justice at Nuremburg due to help from the French secret services).

    The British Government knowingly violated its treaty obligations regarding Palestine and the Jews in order to appease Muslims in Palestine, India, Iraq, Arabia, Syria, the Trucial States, and the Crown Colony at Aden (in no particular order).

  39. Ashley Sharp

    And why would we need the soldiers of the commonwealth and allies… oh yeah. World war 2. next.

  40. Ashley Sharp

    I see from you’re comment history, you’re blatantly hasbara. See ya later, dipshit.

  41. dcomplex

    Do you think any violent criminal is violent 100% of the time?

  42. dcomplex

    I’m not Hasbara, I’m 100% American. =)

    If I were Hasbara, wouldn’t I make my comment history private?

  43. dcomplex

    Also, how am I Hasbara when I also post in favor of the loyalists in Northern Ireland and the Serbs in Bosnia?

  44. dcomplex

    How many soldiers did Iraq and Saudi Arabia commit to the cause of WW2? And you’re defending Britain violating her treaty obligations in order to appease her semi-allies.

  45. dcomplex

    Oh yeah toootally because that’s what we know about lynch mobs.

  46. David Davies

    British Values

    1/9/15 – Chicken Licken (Panicky Face) – `There is no room at the inn for migrants.’

    4/9/15 – Pontius Pilate (Compassionate Face) – `I am moved to allow in another 20k refugees, before 2020. I am not so moved as to provide any extra money in Budgets to be slashed by 40%’

    7/9/15 – War Monger II (Blustery Face) -`I have authorised an Act of War, without seeking any permission from Nato or Parliament, against the country that the Al-Kurdi family fled from in terror just over a week ago.

    A week truly is a long time in politics!

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