‘Spot the difference’ as Labour, the Mail, and GB News all shame themselves over refugee Channel deaths

Bridget Philipson on GB News Labour Refugees Mail
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Six refugees from Afghanistan died in the Channel when the boat they were travelling to the UK on capsized. Predictably, the Mail on Sunday ran a suitably horrid front page, while GB News screamed about ‘taxpayer cash’ – and less predictably (but becoming more the norm), the Labour Party under Keir Starmer gave both of them a run for their money.

Six refugees dead, yet who’s to blame?

As Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported, on Saturday 12 August, six people died and 61 others were rescued including children. They were mostly from Afghanistan, with some coming from war-torn Sudan.

A spokesperson for the Utopia56 humanitarian group blamed border “repression” for the tragedy. They told AFP that the difficulty of securing legal passage only:

increases the dangerousness of crossings and pushes people to take more and more risks to reach England.

Previously, five people died at sea and four went missing while trying to cross to Britain from France last year. In November 2021, 27 people also died when a boat capsized in the Channel.

Of course, this is also a Europe-wide problem. As the Canary‘s Afroze Fatima Zaidi recently wrote:

almost 2,400 refugees have died or gone missing so far in 2023 while trying to reach European shores via the Mediterranean Sea. Moreover, as the BBC reported:

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“The United Nations has registered more than 17,000 deaths and disappearances in the central Mediterranean since 2014, making it the most dangerous migrant crossing in the world”.

The Tories (and their mates in the corporate media) in the UK are quick to blame anyone except themselves, of course. The Mail on Sunday‘s front page on 13 August was a case in point. It ran with the headline:

Was French patrol boat to blame for migrant drownings?

AFP reported that Dover MP Natalie Elphicke blustered that:

These overcrowded and unseaworthy deathtraps should obviously be stopped by the French authorities from leaving the French coast in the first place.

It shouldn’t need saying, but as a reminder, people are fleeing Afghanistan because of the mess the UK helped create:

So, the Tories and the Mail on Sunday‘s responses were predictable. But what of the Labour Party?

Labour: courting the right

Sky News interviewed the shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson. Her response to the deaths of six people from Afghanistan? First, blame the Tories:

And next, say Labour would do everything except open legal routes for refugees to get here by:

Oh, and she dropped everyone’s favourite right-wing talking point on right-wing GB News – that the asylum system is costing the good-old British taxpayer a “fortune”:

The same line former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib used:

The fact Labour are now sending front-bench members onto GB News says a lot about the kind of voter it wants to attract.

Colonialist UK: where Ukrainians matter more than Afghans

Back in the real world, the six people who drowned will likely have families mourning in Afghanistan. It didn’t have to be this way. The government has a resettlement scheme for Afghans in place – yet it has barely let anyone in:

Compare the six people from Afghanistan the government has resettled with the 10,000 Ukrainians that we accepted a week in May 2022. As LBC host Sangita Myska summed up regarding the Tories detaining refugees on the Bibby Stockholm barge:

if they were 39 white men from Ukraine walking up that gangplank into that barge, I’m telling you now there would be a hue and cry, the like of which you have never seen.

As always, at the heart of this story is the underbelly of racism and colonialism that pervades UK society. As the Canary‘s Maryam Jameela previously wrote:

It’s almost as though people in the UK don’t value and respect the lives of Black and brown people. They merely tolerate us. They don’t value us as human beings; they see us as cockroaches to keep out of the way. Ukrainian people are considered as a whole – their culture, their traditions, their communities. Black and brown people don’t get that luxury. This is because white people only consider fellow white people to have inalienable rights.

You’d expect the Mail on Sunday and GB News to push these racist, colonialist mindsets. But Labour? Well, that’s where we’re at, now.

Featured image via GB News – screengrab

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  • Show Comments
    1. This is slightly missing the point, imo. Although the missed point is no morally superior.

      It’s not particulary the “race” – it is the relationship to social hierarchy.

      The difference between Afghans and say Ukrainians can be due to their status with regards to Imperial policy. The Afghans are OUR victims directly. We invaded their lands, destroyed their society, and the subtle messaging is that “They deserved it” in some largely unspecified way. They are, in short, at the bottom of the social rungs from the POV of British society.

      However the Ukrainians have been sold as “Victims of Imperial Enemies that we are helping” – largely by funding their press-ganging into short-lived cannon-fodder/lifelong cripples, but that’s “Imperial Aid” for you.

      The subtle messaging is that “They didn’t deserve it”, which unusually is true, they didn’t deserve being couped by the USA and turned into a sacrificial front-line militarised state to throw at a superpower next door specifically to try to “bleed it”. They are not (At least, not yet) seen as at the bottom of the hierarchy to be kicked down on.

      Recall the efforts to give ‘sanctuary’ to the Chinese Hong Kongers when THEY were used to try to undermine China – the gammon were kept well under control, incl the gammon-tabloids.

      This is not to say there isn’t racism, both personal and institutional, against browner skin – of course there is. And a great deal of it comes from the Oxbridge-educated upper-middle classes who write the tabloid articles with causing it in mind.

      It’s just there are other levels at play too.

      Lets be clear – if Ukraine was a Russian ally, and the West nuked it because they were bored and it would “Hurt Russia”; its a dead cert that Ukrainian refugees would be washing ashore, and gammons would be smirking and dog-whistling without a care in the world.

      Contrariwise, were a Black African country loyal to the West (Is there such a beast left?) were to be militarily invaded by China (Imperial Enemy), the press would ensure social-sympathy raised those specific Black Africans to levels of “Deserving Victims”, and it would be APPALLING if they died upon the beaches of Britain, rather than being given special treatment.

      Needless to say, once HERE, they too would experience the “Normal racism”, unless they draped themselves in the flags then so prominently displayed on gullible/useful idiots FB profiles.

      The cynicism is from top to bottom, and even the grunting low-brows have enough intelligence to understand the implicit ‘social hierarchy’.

      It is learn’d quickly at the abusive English school system.

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