Dehumanizing Refugees For a Story

We have been reading about the refugee crisis in Europe for many years. The UN has reported on multiple occasions how Europe has had its worst refugee crisis since World War II, prompting  journalists worldwide to report on the topic. Due to Brexit and the potential fall of the “Dublin III” agreement, there has been a spike of migrants and refugees crossing through the English Channel. The UK's Home Office confirmed over 4,000 people have crossed the Channel this year, as of August 6th, breaking record with 235 arrivals. 

Sky News and the BBC  reported the crossings during their peak in August, and the backlash was impressive. Both news broadcasters have taken upon themselves to report on the dangerous crossings of refugees; devaluing the sacrifice they have to undergo in order to rebuild a life after the war and violence they have endured.

It’s baffling how a reporter can ask a person “Where are you from?” to return to the camera and describe how the boat is in distress due to overflow. Ali Fostercue asked multiple times “Are you ok?” to a group of people risking their lives as she ignored them when they said “No camera.” When does it make it okay to prioritize the coverage of a sinking boat filled with people who have been forced out of their home due to persecution, war, or violence? Refugees sacrificing their life should never be broadcast as entertainment. 

The focus should be on the safety of the crossing and on the reform of the current protocols for refugees. The Guardian quoted the deputy leader of Northern Ireland’s Alliance party: “It is voyeurism and capitalizing on misery. Media should be seeking to hold [the Home Office] to account, and the dark forces fuelling this anti-people agenda.”  

Hassan Akkad, a BAFTA-winning filmmaker and Syrian refugee, captioned an Instagram post  “If broadcasters don’t treat desperate people with respect, they cannot expect the time of others who have been in a similar situation” In the post, he displayed an email denying an appearance on Sky News to discuss the issue.   

The reporting by Sky News and BBC has been called “not ethical journalism,” “appalling,” and “sickening.” Skynews is currently swimming in Ofcom complaints and the broadcast of the crossings has been compared to reality TV Shows. Both correspondents, Ali Fortescue and Simon Jones have said they will continue to report since it’s being done in a humanly way and they are following safety protocols even though the internet has asked them to revalue their reporting. Allowing the dehumanizing of individuals as if crossing the channel is a spectator sport, like Arnesa Buljusmic-Kustura said, is how the UK is projecting its xenophobia and voyeurism.