The motives

Migrants or refugees?

The home secretary, Priti Patel, has said she will ask the BBC and other media to reflect on their language after the term “migrant” was used to describe people who drowned in the Channel.

It’s considered dehumanizing.

The home secretary has most recently adopted the term “economic migrants”, a label favoured by the likes of the hard-right campaigner Nigel Farage but seen by charities as an attempt to undermine the motives of those who risk their lives to cross from France.

In other words as saying they’re not fleeing persecution but seeking better conditions.

But that raises the question of why the second is frowned on. Better conditions are better, so yes people are going to try to get to them. Why wouldn’t they?

[Patel] has claimed that 70% of people who come to the UK via small boats are “single men who are effectively economic migrants” and “not genuine asylum seekers”.

The trumpies say that kind of thing too, but…yes, and? “Economic” here stands for better pay and a better life. People move to a different town or county or region for that, so some are going to try to move to a different country. There are borders and rules and barriers, but that doesn’t make the desire for better pay and a better life contemptible.

In 2015 David Cameron as prime minister was heavily criticised for speaking of a “swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean”. He later defended his use of the term “swarm” and said he was determined to keep out people living in the Calais camps as they attempted to reach Britain, likening some of them to burglars. “They are economic migrants and they want to enter Britain illegally and the British people and I want to make sure our borders are secure and you can’t break into Britain without permission,” he said.

David Cameron has had a pretty comfortable life, I believe.

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