Lineker warned by BBC for calling out the Tories’ dehumanising language on refugees

Gary Lineker calls out Suella Braverman's use of dehumanising language
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The BBC warned Gary Lineker on 7 March to respect its social media guidelines after the presenter criticised home secretary Suella Braverman‘s use of language. The ex-footballer’s tweet came after Braverman unveiled a new anti-refugee bill. However, Lineker is not the only person slamming the bill.

“Beyond awful”

Sharing a video of Braverman announcing the new Illegal Migration Bill, Lineker tweeted:

Good heavens, this is beyond awful.

Then, in response to a now-deleted reply, Lineker noted:

There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries. This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s, and I’m out of order?

This led to backlash across the right-wing (social) media ecosystem. There were calls for the BBC to sack Lineker for comparing the bill to “Nazi Germany”. Braverman herself responded, telling BBC radio that she is “disappointed” with Lineker’s comparison and that it’s not an “appropriate way” of framing the “debate”.

However, as many on social media highlighted, Lineker compared Braverman’s language – and not the bill – to rhetoric used in 1930s Germany:

Though, as one Guardian writer pointed out, regardless of how much one may agree with Lineker’s sentiment, it’s probably time for different comparisons:

Braverman’s dehumanising language

When she presented the draft legislation to parliament, Braverman attached a letter to lawmakers. It conceded that she could not confirm yet whether the plan respected European human rights law. Yet in a round of broadcast interviews, she said the government was within its rights to stop refugees crossing the Channel. Braverman also insisted on highlighting that up to 80,000 people may make the journey in 2023.

This focus on numbers of refugees is also present in the video that Lineker responded to. Braverman did also double-down on demonising language in the video. The statement said refugees are “overwhelming” and “gaming” the UK’s asylum system.

This type of language led some of the UK’s biggest unions to criticise the government. The Guardian reported on 5 March that a joint statement from a number of unions said that the government is “complicit” in attacks on hotels housing refugees. Unison, the National Education Union, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), and others said the government’s “rhetoric and demonisation” of refugees is “playing the mood music” for far-right mobs.

Tantamount to an ‘asylum ban’

The Illegal Migration Bill intends to outlaw asylum claims by all people arriving ‘illegally’. The plans would then transfer those people elsewhere, such as Rwanda. It aims to stop thousands of refugees from crossing the Channel on ‘small boats’. Lineker is far from the only person to have criticised the anti-refugee legislation, of course.

Rights groups, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), called out the plan. It said the plan would make Britain itself an international outlaw under European and UN conventions on asylum. The UNHCR said it was “profoundly concerned”, adding:

The legislation, if passed, would amount to an asylum ban – extinguishing the right to seek refugee protection in the United Kingdom for those who arrive irregularly, no matter how genuine and compelling their claim may be, and with no consideration of their individual circumstances.

Most people fleeing war and persecution are simply unable to access the required passports and visas. There are no safe and ‘legal’ routes available to them.

Denying them access to asylum on this basis undermines the very purpose for which the Refugee Convention was established.

UNHCR also said that, based on the Home Department’s most recent data, the vast majority of those arriving in Britain in small boats over the Channel would be accepted as refugees if their claims were assessed. The Geneva-based agency urged the UK government “to reconsider the bill and instead pursue more humane and practical policy solutions”.

Tory cruelty

While Lineker could have chosen a less tired metaphor, his underlying message is spot on. The language used by Braverman and the Tories is intended to drum up support amongst their hangers-on for the legislation. It’s also not the first time, but a persistent feature of Tory rule that has grown increasingly toxic.

By pointing towards how Lineker tweeted, rather than what he tweeted, the government and its supporters are creating a smokescreen to avoid criticism of the bill itself. A bill that the UN itself said might break international law. But, with little opposition to the Tories’ disgusting position on refugees in parliament, it seems ‘personalities’ like Lineker are left to flag up the ills of this nationalist, racist, and cruel bill.

Featured image via BT Sport/YouTube and Guardian News/YouTube

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

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