PM must avoid inflammatory language

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30 Jul 2015

The Refugee Council is urging the Prime Minister to show leadership when talking about vulnerable people arriving on Europe's shores.

Speaking during a visit to Vietnam, Mr Cameron told ITV News that the problem had become worse in recent months because "you have got a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean, seeking a better life, wanting to come to Britain".

As well as using unacceptable language, we are also concerned that the Prime Minister is misrepresenting the situation.

According to figures from the UN's Refugee Agency (UNHCR), over 200,000  people have arrived on Europe's shores this year, having risked everything to cross the Mediterranean Sea in their desperate search for safety.

The majority of these people are not seeking to come to Britain, with Germany, Sweden, Italy, France and Hungary receiving far more asylum applications than we do. In fact, the UK receives below the EU average in terms of asylum applications per head of population.

Refugee Council Head of Advocacy Dr Lisa Doyle said: "It’s extremely disappointing to hear the Prime Minister using such irresponsible, de-humanising language to describe the desperate men, women and children fleeing for their lives across the Mediterranean Sea.

"This sort of rhetoric is extremely inflammatory and comes at a time when the Government should be focused on working with its European counterparts to respond calmly and compassionately to this dreadful humanitarian crisis.

"It’s easy to see why people are alarmed by the pictures they’re seeing and the reports they’re reading: it’s utterly heart-breaking to hear of people losing their lives. That’s why it’s so important that the Prime Minister shows real leadership by ensuring he uses responsible, careful language and doesn’t feed into people’s fears by misrepresenting the situation.

"Britain has a proud tradition of protecting refugees. It’s important that tradition is safeguarded in times of crisis."