Calais migrant crisis: Bishop of Dover criticises Cameron over 'swarm' comments

Trevor Willmott calls on prime minister to 'soften' rhetoric towards those seeking to come to the UK

Alexander Sehmer
Monday 03 August 2015 09:32 BST
Migrants climb over a fence onto the tracks near the Eurotunnel site at Coquelles in Calais (PA)
Migrants climb over a fence onto the tracks near the Eurotunnel site at Coquelles in Calais (PA) (PA)

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

Bishop Trevor Willmott called on the prime minister to "soften" his rhetoric and deal with the problem in a "non-hostile way".

In an interview with The Guardian 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."

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.

Operation Stack, which sees freight lorries queued on the motorway through Kent, is described by the police as an "emergency measure" but has been frequently in use over the last month.

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.

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.

Migrants have used the chaos at Calais to break into UK-bound trucks (Getty)

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."

Peter Sutherland, the UN secretary general's special representative on international migration, said the choice of words was "most unfortunate" and Philippe Mignonet, the deputy mayor of Calais, branded the comment "racist".

Now the Church of England has added to what has become an international backlash.

(Additional reporting by agencies)

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in