TAMARA SIDDIQUI: Where is the empathy for refugees?

The first column I wrote for The News in September was about the refugee crisis and as it's an ongoing issue that's captivated myself and millions of others, I wondered when the next one would be.

Tuesday, 8th November 2016, 11:52 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 4:09 pm
Refugees are human beings, but tabloid stories and people who leave nasty comments online can act as if they're not

Well, that time is now, because some have acted as if it’s a crime to be empathetic towards those in the middle of it.

The comment sections on articles online and on Facebook and Twitter news posts can be a breeding ground for hate. If you see a story about refugees or migrants you know that, if you scroll to the bottom, someone will have written something nasty – and that baffles me.

I’m not saying everyone who flees their war-torn homes is perfect. We can’t let anyone and everyone in because there are security matters to consider. We definitely need to protect our country and our people.

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But for those normal people, the ones who have lived through hell and just want a better life for themselves and their families – if they have any left – how can people be so horrible about them?

A recent comment left online on a Daily Mirror story about refugees said: ‘They should all be sent back to the first European country they landed in, checked out and then sent back to their own countries. Simple. No room at the inn.’

How can anyone have such a lack of empathy for other human beings? We’re lucky to live in the UK; we aren’t better than those people, and it could have been us who were born and brought up in countries at war. Can you say you wouldn’t try to enter another country if it was you and your family? Or that if, as a parent, you had died, you wouldn’t want your child – no matter their age – to go to a safe country?

I can understand the frustrations about being lied to regarding the ages of migrants. If we say something is going to be one way, it shouldn’t be another. But it’s not right to attack those people.

The tabloid coverage of the story has been demonising and damaging to those involved and to us. Imagine being granted refuge only to find your picture on the front of the Daily Express. Eight or 18, it doesn’t change what those boys who were older than first thought have been through, and I wouldn’t say going through it at 18 means you are automatically able to cope with war.

The national tabloids – each of which has its own agenda – aren’t afraid to be nasty about the situation and those who sympathise with it. It’s dangerous because a person doesn’t even have to read a tabloid story for their thoughts and opinions to be shaped by it. Seeing a misleading headline like ‘You pay for £36m Calais clearout’, is enough.

Please, can’t we be a little more humane?

• Twenty-four-year-old Tamara Siddiqui is a journalist at The News. Read her views on life as a modern woman in an ever-changing world every week, online or in the newspaper.