© Press Association Now we can see the 'Calais crisis' for what it was - a media-made myth
Where have all the Calais “migrants” gone? Gone from front pages, every one. Since the picture of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi was published on 3 September, thus transforming the Syrian refugee crisis into national news, the drama in France has all but vanished from the news agenda.
No more TV news footage of young men climbing fences. No more newspaper photographs of despairing people huddled in the camp known as The Jungle. No more fulminating leading articles. No more criticism of the French police or British politicians.
The whole business has melted away, not least because it was a small-scale matter when seen in the context of the wider problem of the humanitarian crisis exemplified by the world-wide movement of people. Calais was, by contrast, a fabricated “crisis” - a non-crisis, in fact.
True, odd bits of Calais-related news - some of it tragic - bubbles away in the background, such as the instances of the young Iraqi crushed to death on Tuesday by wooden pallets in the back of a lorry and, the previous Thursday, the young African hit by a train and killed near the Channel tunnel entrance.
But the relentless, overtly hostile and sometimes downright inaccurate (see here) daily coverage on TV news bulletins and in national newspapers of the incoming “swarm” has vanished.
The thousands drawn “to Calais in the hope of smuggling themselves into the UK” (Daily Mail) appear no longer to be of editorial interest.
© Press Association Graffiti reading "France is dog life, England good life" on the walls of an underpass near the entrance to the migrant camp known as the new Jungle in Calais
We are not being told any longer of lorry drivers’ frustrations at the aggression of migrants (The Independent); of calls for the British army to march to the rescue (Daily Telegraph); of the anarchy (Daily Express); of the claims that British tourists were turning their backs on France (Daily Mirror)... and so on ad nauseam.
By late August, the effect of the coverage became clear. It had helped propel immigration into being “the chief concern of British voters after weeks of crisis over migrants at Calais”, as the Times reported. It overtook the NHS and the economy, as recorded by the monthly Economist/ Ipsos Mori poll.
Yet it can now be seen as a fake media-manufactured “crisis” involving just a couple of hundred destitute people trying to enter Britain illegally. It was a trickle, not a flood. It was a marginal matter and, moreover, one with a lengthy history.
As a Guardian piece written in late July argued, it was insignificant seen against the fact - yes the fact - that “the vast majority of people living illegally in Britain came in the front door – through Heathrow airport – and simply overstayed their visas.”
Now, with hundreds of thousands of refugees coming to Europe to find asylum from violence in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and various African regimes, the media’s overblown coverage of Calais is exposed for what it was - a way of pandering to prejudice by stoking up antagonism towards a small group of very desperate people (who are still there, you know).
It amounts to a classic case of media myth-making and, incidentally, is yet further proof of the way in which “impartial” television news allows itself to be lured into an agenda created by national newspapers.