Bishop blasts UK response to migrant crisis: 'Every human being matters'

Around 3,000 migrants live around the tunnel entrance in a makeshift camp known as "The Jungle", making the northern French port one of the frontlines in Europe's wider migrant crisis.Reuters

The Bishop of Dover has issued a damning response to the ongoing migrant crisis in Calais amid accusations that those trying to reach safety are being demonised by politicians.

"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," Rt Rev Trevor Willmott told the Guardian.

"We need to rediscover what it is to be a human, and that every human being matters."

David Cameron came under fire last Thursday for referring to those trying to reach Britain as a "swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean, seeking a better life". He promised that the UK would not become a "safe haven" for migrants, and was immediately condemned for his use of language.

Labour's Harriet Harman branded Cameron's response "divisive", and called on the PM to "remember he is talking about people and not insects".

A spokesperson from the Refugee Council described his comments as "awful, dehumanising language from a world leader."

Willmott said: "To put them [migrants and refugees] 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."

Numerous groups working with refugees have called on the UK government to accept more of those trying to cross the border. Many of them are fleeing atrocities and persecution in the Middle East and Africa.

In an article for the Observer, Chief Executive of Save the Children, Justin Forsyth, said "We are in danger of shutting our hearts to the desperation of the people pleading at the door, refugees not economic migrants".

"Behind all the talk of 'hoards' and 'floods' are stories of individual men and women, boys and girls, every single last one of them somebody's daughter or son," Forsyth added.

"Of course there needs to be a system for managing migration. One that is tough but fair with economic migrants...Let's remember that refugees escaping wars and persecution do have the legal right to international protection. Too often they are mixed up in the debate about economic migration. Many of these so-called migrants are refugees fleeing conflicts such as in Syria. They are not fleeing economics."

On Sunday, Britain and France urged other European Union countries to help them tackle the crisis.

"There are no easy solutions – and it is not for the UK and France to solve these problems alone," a joint letter from British Home Secretary Theresa May and her French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve said.

"Many of those in Calais and attempting to cross the Channel have made their way there through Italy, Greece or other countries. That is why we are pushing other member states – and the whole of the EU – to address this problem at root."