The attacks on Paris have launched a new wave of xenophobia throughout Europe and the West. The media is largely responsible for this misinformation, so get to know the FACTS before you act out

 

What happened in Paris on Friday the 13th undoubtedly falls into the same bracket as 9/11, the Madrid train bombings and the 7/7 bombings in London; a cowardly attack on innocent civilians causing unbridled levels of fear and devastation. The aftermath has seen a wave of xenophobia engulf the Western world. The widespread sympathies evoked by the heart-breaking image of Aylan Kurdi’s lifeless floating body just three months ago now seem a million miles away, and have been replaced by far more hostile sentiments. Social media has become littered with racial slurs denouncing Islam as an evil religion; far-right policies such as closing borders [1] and sending immigrants ‘back where they came from’ are now accepted as credible by many; and racist attacks like the one in Bishopbriggs on Tuesday [2] are on the rise.

Fear and misunderstanding are currently rife and, whether or not those making racist assertions like to admit it, it is these feelings that are shaping their rationale. The fear tends to spawn from the distinct lack of understanding of the situation in the Middle East and is then exacerbated by xenophobic articles in publications like the Daily Mail, the Express and those owned by Rupert Murdoch. Such articles culminated on Monday with the Sun’s disturbingly divisive and misleading headline, ‘One in five Brit Muslims’ sympathy for jihadis’.

Rather than allow your worldview to be shaped by such toxic journalism, it is imperative that as a politically engaged young individual you take a stand and confront these misguided interpretations head-on. It is easy to simply turn a blind eye to a racist Facebook post or hold your tongue as a family member spouts ill-informed opinions on immigration, but doing so would only be adding to the problem.

Conversely, confronting someone in an aggressive manner is likely to complicate matters and get the individual in question’s back up; as will ridiculing or dismissing their point of view without explanation. The importance of facts in this situation cannot be downplayed. Facts can refute false arguments; give new perspectives to news stories; and ultimately, shift people away from the path of ignorance and hostility. Of course there will always be those who refuse to accept what you present to them, but for everyone else here is a rundown of some of the most common misconceptions heard over the past week or so with regards to immigration.

‘How can we possibly house all these Syrians when we already have veterans sleeping rough? Charity begins at home’.

The fact that soldiers return from warzones and find themselves living on the streets is profoundly tragic, but to suggest that immigration is in anyway linked to this is wholly inaccurate. Veterans tend to be given priority when it comes to housing but many are struggling psychologically due to what they have been through. The charity Combat Stress claims that mental health issues amongst military personnel have risen by 26 per cent over the last year, with an average of six veterans per day seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) [3]. The effects of PTSD can be devastating—often leading to a cycle of family break-ups, addiction, drugs or alcohol and then either homelessness or prison. Although this deeply complex issue undoubtedly ought to have more government resources dedicated to it, an influx of migrants will neither better nor worsen the situation surrounding it.

‘The country’s in a big enough mess as it is without these immigrants coming over, taking our jobs and driving down wages’.

A report released last week has suggested that low-skilled migrant workers could be pivotal in addressing a shortfall of over a million care workers in Britain by 2037. Migrants make up nearly one in five of all care workers at the current time, with many Brits not interested in taking up jobs in this sector due to their poor rate of pay and uncertain work hours. The report by Independent Age and the International Longevity Centre UK actually claims that immigration laws ought to be loosened to tackle this problem [4].

‘This [the Paris attacks] is what happens when we open our borders to refugees. ISIS said they were going to infiltrate them and that’s what they’ve done’.

This is a fairly understandable concern to have in the current climate but it must be stressed that the vast majority of those who carried out the attacks were French and Belgian citizens. The police have confirmed that three of the key individuals involved were brothers from the Molenbeek region of Brussels; while only one of the eight suspects is believed to have travelled through Europe from Syria  and posed as a refugee [5].

 

Sources:

[1] York, Chris (2015), ‘Founder Of ‘Close UK Borders’ Petition, Tina Reeves, Currently Lives in Spain’, The Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/11/18/tina-reeves-close-uk-borders-spanish-_n_8589052.html

[2] McCall, Chris (2015), ‘Bishopbriggs mosque targeted in ‘deliberate’ fire’, The Scotsman, http://www.scotsman.com/news/bishopbriggs-mosque-targeted-in-deliberate-fire-1-3950553

[3] Glenton, Joe (2015), ‘How UK ‘looks after’ war veterans: 10% of prisoners, 9000 homeless, suicides soaring’, Stop The War Coalition, http://www.stopwar.org.uk/index.php/news/how-britain-looks-after-its-war-veterans-10-are-in-prison-9000-homeless-suicides-are-soaring

[4] Owen, Jonathan (2015), ‘Migrant workers needed to solve UK’s ‘crippling’ shortage of care workers, report says’, The Independent, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/migrant-workers-could-solve-uks-crippling-shortage-of-care-workers-report-says-a6737141.html

[5] Harley, Malnick, Mulholland, Sabur, Steafel, Trotman (2015), ‘Paris terror attack: Everything we know on Saturday afternoon’, The Telegraph, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/11995246/Paris-shooting-What-we-know-so-far.html