Why has this refugee crisis become so politicised and over-exaggerated by the media?

From their arrival to their settlement here in the UK, the media have been closely watching the thousands of Syrians who have come, seeking asylum in the past few weeks. The topic of the migrant crisis however is not something that is new to the media and, in fact, now appearing in various articles, there has been discussion as to why such attention has been brought to this matter and why it has started to become a hot potato game.

For starters, we know that David Cameron has never been particularly careful with his words, especially in regards to the Syrian asylum seekers. Back in 2015, his Thatcherite statement describing refugees as a ‘swarm of migrants’ became popular in the headlines. David Cameron, however, again falls into the grasp of the media by referring to asylum seekers as a ‘bunch of migrants’, this time, being highly criticised by various groups such as the Refugee Council, which was appalled at his use of dehumanising and irresponsible language towards Syrian refugees. Political faces and the media were quick to jump on this; Labour MP Harriet Harman voicing her beliefs that it was as if David Cameron were talking about insects instead of people. The Guardian also wasn’t far behind, commenting on this matter with an article on the use of metaphors of the migration debate.

The question, however, is – should we expect anything different from the conservative leader? Should we not be used to his particular comments about the situation?

Yet things have developed and it’s no longer simply about the number of refugees being accepted into the UK anymore, it is about their settlement here too. Two of the major headlines that made front pages a week ago were in regards to the unwelcoming behaviour and hostility that was experienced by Syrian refugees. It started with red doors, painted by G4S officials in Middlesbrough, sparking a backlash because of the racial abuse and verbal harassment that such signifiers lead to. This was then followed by another report on asylum seekers in Cardiff, who had become easily identifiable to the public because of the wristbands provided for them by Clear spring-ready homes, entitling them to three meals a day if they were worn at all times. Individuals such as Mogdad Abdeen, a human rights activist from Sudan, have commented on the discriminatory nature of the wristbands and described them as a way of singling out those who are refugees from the rest of the public, making them feel alienated as “second class humans”.

While some may disagree with this statement, other news mediums, such as The Telegraph, have argued that the method of wristbands has been highly exaggerated. Instead, it should be seen as a reliable method that not only ensures that a particular person (i.e. the refugee) is entitled to meals, but also that no one else takes advantage of these services, which are exclusively for asylum seekers. Other methods, such as vouchers or cards, may not have been as efficient, due to the fact that they can easily be lost or stolen by other members of the public. Agreeing with this idea is another article, published in the Daily Mail, that follows the ideas of Tory MP David Davies. This describing the issue of the wristband as a clear exaggeration, being painted as the worst thing that these refugees have been through, while, in fact, the majority have experienced war, conflict, persecution and even torture. Mr Davies compared these wristbands to what he himself must also wear when he goes on an all-inclusive beach holiday and is allowed to make use of all the services provided.

The many headlines and articles that have been published on this topic lead to questions about the extent to which we must consider these small happenings as major issues for Syrian refugees. We ask ourselves – is it really about the wristbands or the red doors? Is it about allowing these individuals a safe place to stay or scrutinising everything that is being done to help them? People, as always, are very quick at jumping on the ‘race’ card and making assumptions, which should surely not be the case in within such important issues. However, it has become a hot potato game, where the media and politicians are throwing the blame at each other, but in the process loose the true opinion of the public and the sense of what is best for truly necessary for those individuals involved.