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Sunday, 30 August 2015

Migration: This is a story about humanity

'Migration is what we have done since the earliest of times, triggering growth and enlarging our circles of possibility. Whether we’re discussing the Roman or British empires, 15th-century Venice or 20th-century New York or London today, great civilisations and dynamic cities have been defined by being open to immigrants and refugees.

They are, as migration specialist Ian Goldin characterises them, “exceptional people”. Over centuries, as he painstakingly details, it has been immigrants and refugees who have been part of the alchemy of any country’s success: they are driven, hungry and talented and add to the pool of entrepreneurs, innovators and risk-takers. The hundreds of thousands today who have trekked across continents and dangerous seas are by any standards unusually driven. They are also, as Angela Merkel says, fellow human beings. To receive them well is not only in our interests, it is fundamental to an idea of what it means to be human.' (Will Hutton)

'Other than a tiny proportion of sociopaths, our species is naturally empathetic. It is only when we strip the humanity from people – when we stop imagining them as being quite human like us – that our empathetic nature is eroded. That allows us either to accept the misery of others, or even to inflict it on them. Rightwing newspapers hunt down extreme and unsympathetic stories of refugees, and we fight back with statistics. Instead, we need to show the reality of refugees: their names, their faces, their ambitions and their fears, their loves, what they fled.' (Owen Jones)

'What do the following people have in common: Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England; the former England cricketer Kevin Pietersen; Nigel Farage’s wife, Kirsten; Chelsea’s new striker, Pedro; and Sir Bradley Wiggins?

Yes, they are all migrants – or, if you prefer, immigrants. Having moved to the UK to further their careers, some of them might perhaps be described as “economic migrants”. Except that this term is reserved exclusively by politicians and the media to describe people who – unlike bankers or sports stars – they don’t like: people who, in the words of our foreign secretary, are “marauding” across Europe.

People from the UK moving abroad to pursue their career or financial interests, meanwhile, are “expats”, never emigrants or migrants.

The language we hear in what passes for a national conversation on migration has become as debased as most of the arguments, until the very word “migrants” is toxic, used to frighten us by conjuring up images of a “swarm” (as David Cameron put it) massing at our borders, threatening our way of life.

As Prof Alexander Betts, director of the refugee studies centre at Oxford University, says: “Words that convey an exaggerated sense of threat can fuel anti-immigration sentiment and a climate of intolerance and xenophobia.”'

'Another journalist says: “They are people – men, women and children, fathers and mothers, teachers and engineers, just like us – except they come from Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Why not just call them ‘people’, then list any other information we know that is relevant?”'

'Politically charged expressions such as “economic migrants”, “genuine refugees” or “illegal asylum seekers” should have no part in our coverage. This is a story about humanity. Reporting it should be humane as well as accurate. Sadly, most of what we hear and read about “migrants” is neither.' (Dave Marsh)


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