Priti Patel to ask BBC and other media to reflect on ‘dehumanising’ language after migrant deaths

Priti Patel is set to ask the BBC and other media to reflect on language after claims the term migrant is “dehumanising”.

Priti Patel said she would write to media organisations over the language used around migrants.
Priti Patel said she would write to media organisations over the language used around migrants.

The home secretary made the claims after being challenged by the SNP’s Brendan O’Hara during an urgent statement on the crisis on Wednesday afternoon.

At least 27 people died when a dinghy capsized off the coast of Calais on Wednesday. Authorities revealed that children and a pregnant woman were among those who died.

Mr O’Hara told the House of Commons: “Last night I tuned in to the BBC 10 o’clock news to get the latest on this terrible disaster and I was absolutely appalled when a presenter informed me that around 30 migrants had drowned.

“Migrants don’t drown. People drown. Men, women and children drown.

“So will the Secretary of State join me in asking the BBC News editorial team and any other news outlet thinking of using that term to reflect on their use of such dehumanising language and afford these poor people the respect that they deserve?”

Ms Patel responded: “Even during the Afghan operations and Op Pitting I heard a lot of language that quite frankly seemed to be inappropriate around people who were fleeing.

“So yes, I will.”

Labour MP and shadow minister for international development Yasmin Qureshi dismissed Ms Patel’s comments, pointing to her own previous remarks.

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She tweeted: “Well it’s a good job the home secretary has never used inflammatory language at any point in her career to the following: migrants, refugees, asylum seeker, solicitors, or barristers then, isn’t it.”

Earlier Ms Patel said there was “no quick fix” to tackle migrants crossing the Channel in small boats as France demanded fresh assistance and dozens more made the perilous crossing in the wake of the deadliest day of the crisis on record.

The senior Cabinet minister claimed the drownings were a “dreadful shock” and described the crossings as “absolutely unnecessary” after renewing an offer of sending British officers to join patrols on French beaches during a call with French interior minister Gerald Darmanin.

She explained: “What happened yesterday was a dreadful shock. It was not a surprise, but it is also a reminder of how vulnerable people are put at peril when in the hands of criminal gangs.

“There is also no quick fix. This is about addressing long-term pull factors, smashing the criminal gangs that treat human beings as cargo and tackling supply chains.”

Ms Patel said she had made a “very clear” offer to her French counterpart of British officers taking part in “joint patrols to prevent these dangerous journeys from taking place”.

But Mr Dumont, the MP for Calais, dismissed the “crazy” proposal that he said “will not change anything” along the vast shoreline.

Speaking during a visit to Croatia, French president Emmanuel Macron said: “We are going to ask for extra help from the British because all these men and these women don’t want to stay in France.

“We tell them they’re obviously able to do so, and there are centres in Calais and Dunkirk where they can go, but we’re going to reinforce, in fact, saving them at sea.”

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