Church of England criticises Cameron for describing migrants as a “swarm”

Bishop Trevor Willmott calls on Prime Minister to “soften” rhetoric towards the migrants, and deal with the problem in a "non-hostile way".

Evangelical Focus

Independent, The Guardian · CALAIS · 03 AUGUST 2015 · 21:50 CET

Migrants climb over a fence / Getty images,
Migrants climb over a fence / Getty images

The Bishop of Dover, Trevor Willmott, has criticised David Cameron for describing migrants seeking to come to the UK as a "swarm", saying it dehumanises them.

Willmott called on the prime minister to deal with the problem in a "non-hostile way".

"To put them all together in that very unhelpful phrase just categorises people and I think he could soften that language, and that doesn’t mean not dealing with the issue. It means dealing with the issue in a non-hostile way", the bishop told The Guardian.


The Bishop of Dover, Trevor Willmott

After several tense days in Calais, where migrants tried to enter the Eurotunnel terminal in northern France, Rev Trevor Willmott, urged Cameron to ameliorate his rhetoric.

“We’ve become an increasingly harsh world, and when we become harsh with each other and forget our humanity then we end up in these standoff positions,” he said. “We need to rediscover what it is to be a human, and that every human being matters”, he added.



Mr Cameron's comment, made in a television interview on Thursday, that "you have got a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean, seeking a better life, wanting to come to Britain", has already attracted criticism from rights groups and the political opposition.

The Refugee Council accused Cameron of "inflammatory ... irresponsible, dehumanising language".

Andy Burnham, the Labour leadership candidate, called the comment "disgraceful" and Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, said: "We are talking about human beings here, not insects."


Big queues are formed everyday in Calais / Reuters

Peter Sutherland, the UN secretary general's special representative on international migration, said Britain’s attitude towards the crisis suggested the lessons of Nazism had not been learnt.

“Many of those in Calais are refugees, just as the Jewish people were in 1939,” he said. “They can prove they were – and are – persecuted and would be persecuted if they were returned.”

Pressure on Cameron also grew with the deputy mayor of Calais, Philippe Mignonet, branding the prime minister “racist”.



Disruption at the French port of Calais, where hundreds of migrants are camped hoping to come to the UK, is felt across the channel in Kent, the Bishop of Dover's diocese, because it leads to congestion on the traffic routes to the ferry ports.

The disruption at Calais has been caused as much by French unions as by the migrants, but the migrants have used the chaos to break into UK-bound trucks and attempted to gain access to the Channel tunnel.

Reports from Calais on Saturday indicated that the situation had calmed down, with French security appearing to have ramped up their numbers in areas where migrants attempt to board Lorries and trains.


Migrants walk in a makeshift camp in Calais / AP

At the beginning of the weekend dozens of migrants could be seen trekking from the “jungle” camp to try their luck, a walk that takes more than two hours each way. But the groups gathered near Channel tunnel entry points and Eurotunnel freight loading areas were a fraction of the numbers that stormed police lines earlier in the week.

Among new security measures discussed by senior government officials at a Cobra meeting were the promise of further CCTV and floodlighting to tighten security at the Eurotunnel entrance.

It is understood that a new fence being constructed around the port at Calais will be completed by Friday.

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