Priti Patel to ask BBC and other media to reflect on ‘migrant’ language

It comes after at least 27 people died when a dinghy capsized off the coast of Calais.

Priti Patel
Priti Patel

The Home Secretary has said she will ask the BBC and other media to reflect on their language after a request from an SNP MP who said the use of the term migrant was “dehumanising” to describe people who have drowned.

At least 27 people died when a dinghy capsized off the coast of Calais on Wednesday. Authorities revealed that children and a pregnant woman were among those who died.

SNP MP Brendan O’Hara told the House of Commons: “Last night I tuned in to the BBC 10 o’clock news to get the latest on this terrible disaster, and I was absolutely appalled when a presenter informed me that around 30 migrants had drowned.

“Migrants don’t drown. People drown. Men, women and children drown.

“So will the Secretary of State join me in asking the BBC News editorial team and any other news outlet thinking of using that term to reflect on their use of such dehumanising language and afford these poor people the respect that they deserve?”

Priti Patel responded: “Even during the Afghan operations and Op Pitting I heard a lot of language that quite frankly seemed to be inappropriate around people who were fleeing.

“So yes, I will.”

Labour MP and shadow minister for international development Yasmin Qureshi said on Twitter: “Well it’s a good job the Home Secretary has never used inflammatory language at any point in her career to the following: migrants, refugees, asylum seeker, solicitors, or barristers then isn’t it.”

French interior minister Gerald Darmanin said the boat that sank was very flimsy, likening it to “a pool you blow up in your garden”.

He was unable to give the nationalities of the victims, but said the two survivors were Somali and Iraqi and had been treated for severe hypothermia.

Mr Darmanin earlier described the latest deaths as an “absolute tragedy” as he blamed human-trafficking gangs who promised people the “El Dorado of England” for a large fee.

Operation Pitting saw the UK airlift from Kabul more than 15,000 people judged to be at serious risk from the Taliban because of their role in assisting British forces in Afghanistan.

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