Bishop of Dover criticises PM Cameron over 'swarm' comment


A Church of England bishop has criticised David Cameron over his controversial description of migrants seeking to come to the UK as a "swarm".

Bishop of Dover Trevor Willmott said politicians and the media should not "forget our humanity" when responding to the crisis currently under way in the French port of Calais, where thousands of migrants are trying to gain entry to the UK.

He called on the Prime Minister to "soften" his rhetoric and deal with the problem in a "non-hostile way".

Mr Cameron was widely criticised after saying in a TV interview that the problem of illegal immigration had become more acute in recent months because "you have got a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean, seeking a better life, wanting to come to Britain".

The comment was branded "disgraceful" by Labour leadership candidate Andy Burnham, while Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: "We are talking about human beings here, not insects."

The Refugee Council accused the PM of "inflammatory ... irresponsible, dehumanising language", and the United Nations secretary general's special representative on international migration, Peter Sutherland, said his choice of words was "most unfortunate".

Now the Bishop of Dover, whose Kent diocese has been particularly affected by the current crisis, has told The Observer: "To put them 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."

He added: "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 stand-off positions. We need to rediscover what it is to be a human, and that every human being matters."

In an article for the same paper's website, Save the Children chief executive Justin Forsyth warned: "We are in danger of shutting our hearts to the desperation of the people pleading at the door, refugees, not economic migrants."