By David Bennett
With the current refugee crisis ongoing, the month of October opened new debates and controversies with the arrival of refugee children to Britain from the so-called ‘jungle’ in Calais.
After more than a year of the ‘jungle’ being in existence, eviction of the refugees began on Monday 24 October. It was clear, however, that the camp’s eviction process had begun without the suitable organisation needed for such a large operation.
The Help Refugees Charity reported that: “In total approximately 1,900 people left the 'Jungle', much less than the 3,000 that was initially planned for [the first day]."
Many of the camp’s inhabitants were resettled in accommodation in various cities and towns across France, and a small number of children in the UK.
Some vulnerable minors were taken to safety in Britain on the first day of eviction, yet the chaotic organisation of the operation led to even more confusion and uncertainty for the hundreds which remained.
Kevin Catkins of Save the Children, speaking to Help Refugees, commented: “It is unacceptable that the French operation to demolish the camp, which has been planned for weeks, now risks putting vulnerable children at greater risk” (helprefugees.org.uk October 24).
Amid attempts to solve the humanitarian crisis in Calais, fresh controversy arose in Britain. The tabloid press and other right-of-centre commentators, suggested some of the vulnerable minors were in fact not minors at all, as photos emerged of the refugees arriving in Britain.
The Sun questioned the age of some of those arriving to Britain and followed the line of Torie MP David Davies, who suggested dental X-rays should be used to determine the refugees’ ages. “Immigration lawyers said [this] was the ‘strongest proof of age’” insisted The Sun in an October article.
The British Dental Association surmised that the checking of refugees teeth would be “unethical” and was an “inaccurate way to check ages," according to BBC News.
The debate hit fever pitch, when the BBC’s Match of the Day presenter, Gary Lineker, tweeted the following statement:
“The treatment of some toward these young refugees is hideously racist and utterly heartless. What's happening to this country?”
Lineker’s tweet did not go down well among the right-of-centre journalists and politicians.
UKIP’s Patrick O’Flynn declared Lineker’s view enough to “get him off MOTD”. Famous racist, and former leader of the English Defence League, now coordinator of the UK arm of Pegida, Tommy Robinson, branded Lineker a “clown," the Huffington Post reported in October.
Additionally, former editor of The Sun, Kelvin Mackenzie, suggested that people who did not share Lineker’s view were “denied a chance to air their thoughts” – a statement made while airing his thoughts in the UKs highest circulating newspaper.
Amid all the controversy caused by the tabloid media, there is an ongoing humanitarian crisis occurring, in which hundreds of thousands of human beings are stranded thousands of miles from home with nothing but the hope of reaching safety.