I expect lots of you have seen the news recently, or the headlines on the front pages of newspapers. There’s a crisis, and the crisis is that thousands of people have lost their homes or left them because it’s too dangerous to stay there any more, and they’re looking for a place of safety. You’d think, wouldn’t you, that people like us would be happy to help, to offer something to those poor people who have lost everything, sometimes even their parents, children, uncles and aunts.
But there’s a problem with language in our country. These large groups of people are often called ‘migrants’ (because a migrant is a person who ‘migrates’ from one location to another) and when they become so desperate that they risk their lives and the lives of their families, to come into a country without having permission to do so, they’re called ‘illegal immigrants’. And the label ‘iilegal immigrant’ encourages people to think that this person is a criminal; that’s they’ve done something really bad. For example, I give you this, from the Mirror Online:
Are you thirteen, or around that age? Can you imagine a situation in which you might be walking along a motorway, in a country you don’t know (and probably don’t speak the language) entirely on your own? Would you be trying to do something criminal? Or would you, perhaps, be just hoping SO MUCH that someone might help you? The last line makes me so sad too. ‘A sixth man was treated in hospital after being found with two broken ankles’. It probably happened when he jumped out of the lorry. How horribly painful. He’s not a criminal either. He might be from a country at war, or he might have come to the UK to try to earn enough money to support his family back home. Either way, he hasn’t come here to rob banks or murder people. He’s a person who wants a better life – and don’t we ALL want that?
Some people are risking their lives by piling onto rafts and boats in the Mediterranean and trying to reach a new country that might be safer than the one they left. Lots of those people want to come to the UK, but our government is worried that they’ll cause problems here, so most of them are being turned away. Some of the boats capsize, and then the people on board mostly drown, including their children. Someone said on Facebook the other day that we need to remember that ‘Nobody puts their child onto a boat if the land is safer’.
Here at GHB we mostly write about books, the fun things we do in our lives, our worries and our pets. But it’s important to remember that there are people for whom ‘fun’ just isn’t an option. Their worries are more to do with ‘how can I keep my children safe from bombs or guns?’ or ‘how can I find enough food to get through the day?’ And we can help by remembering that these people are refugees – they are fleeing from violence, seeking safety – and that when we talk about them, we should call them ‘people who need help’ not ‘illegal immigrants’. Two years ago, I blogged about Syria – well, some of those people risking their lives are from that very country.
Because, after all, people are still people, no matter where they come from, the colour of their skin, or what language they speak. We’re all the same underneath. So next time you hear someone use the term ‘illegal immigrant’, ask them if they know where that person has come from and whether the term ‘refugee’ might be more appropriate.
If you want to do something to help the refugees, check out this link from the Independent, which has a whole list of things people can do.
Featured image of people in boat from The Economist