The response to child refugees arriving in the UK shows how low we have sunk

Migrants at the Calais port try to find their way to ferries going to the United Kingdom
Migrants at the Calais port try to find their way to ferries going to the United Kingdom
Natalie Bloomer By

It should have been a moment to make us proud. Finally, Britain is beginning to reunite children who have been stranded in the Calais jungle, with their families in the UK.

But in today's anti-immigrant climate, even this seemingly positive event prompts a torrent of hate. And not just from the usual suspects on social media who like to rant about foreigners. It was politicians and the press who led the attacks. The refugees had barely stepped onto British soil before it started.

"How old are they really? Concern as 'hulking' all-male refugee children arrive from Calais," wrote the Express.

"These don't look like "children" to me. I hope British hospitality is not being abused," tweeted the Conservative MP David Davies. This was followed by him posting a video of his visit to the Calais jungle  with the comment "didn't see any children in the camp, just 000s young men & activists offering advice what to say to get into UK". Those respectable charities with research showing there are around 1,000 unaccompanied children must have just got it wrong then.


 

On it went. Fellow Conservative MP Nadine Dorries asked: "Are we only accepting male 'child' refugees into the U.K? Once again, Britain's hospitality abused". And the on-again off-again Ukip leader Nigel Farage tweeted: "Pictures of the 'child' refugees entering from Calais prove the need to verify who is coming into our country."

A quick look at the Twitter time lines of Labour MP Stella Creasy or the Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker will show you the type of anger that is provoked by anybody who dares to question this type of rhetoric. The MEP Patrick O'Flynn even suggested Lineker should lose his job over his views. "If Mr Lineker wants to be Lib-Left political voice then fair enough, but get him off MOTD please." he tweeted.

Beneath all the talk of needing proper identity checks, the message is clear. What they really mean when they describe 'hulking' teenagers is: these sometimes dark skinned, always foreign-looking, males are a threat to us and we shouldn't let them in. It doesn't matter that plenty of 15 and 16 year olds look older than their age. We have reached a point where the amount of help we are willing to give is so limited that unless a refugee looks like a young child we don't want to know. We don't care what they might have been through. They are male and tall so they don't deserve our help.

We shouldn't kid ourselves that the ugly debate over the EU Referendum has created this type of hatred in the UK. It has always been there, bubbling away beneath the surface, it's just now nobody feels the need to hide it. The Brexit vote was seen as a green light to say what you like about foreigners under the guise of having 'genuine' concerns about immigration.

It should come as no surprise that the hatred which has been fed for years by sections of the right-wing media has now come out into the open. It was only a matter of time. But have we really sunk so low that children are now seen as legitimate targets?

A moment which should have made us proud to be British has turned into something which shames us. It’s a good indication of what post-Brexit Britain is going to look like.

Natalie Bloomer is a journalist for Politics.co.uk

The opinions in politics.co.uk's Comment and Analysis section are those of the author and are no reflection of the views of the website or its owners.

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