MPs Told Not to Use ‘Offensive’ Words Like ‘Illegal’ or ‘Immigrant’ During Election Campaign


Promises to cut migrant numbers, references to immigrants as “illegal”, or asylum seekers as “failed”, and bringing up pressure on public services in the context of the number of people entering the UK are all unacceptable talking points for politicians according to a new ‘etiquette guide’ published by campaigners ahead of the general election.

Warning that “Brexit, future immigration policy, and integration could all be stumbling blocks for uncoached politicians and journalists”, pro-migration charity Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) claim their guide outlines how politicians can approach the topic of immigration “with good manners and grace”.

“Intended as a topical riff on the Debrett’s guides, our guide flags up some serious points in an entertaining way. We really hope it will catch on and inject some levity into the pre-election period,” said Sarah Marcus, JCWI’s communication director.

“Words matter, and some are simply offensive,” the document says. “It is impolite and inaccurate to refer to people in a dehumanising manner,” the JCWI claims. The document cites “illegals” (in the context of migrants), “bogus” and “failed” (when referring to asylum seekers), and “health tourists” as words and terms that are beyond the pale.

The etiquette guide urges the use of specific terms such as “students” or “workers” instead of talking about “immigrants” as a broader category, so as “to avoid embarrassing misunderstandings in polite company”. It then advises journalists and politicians to “take a moment to reflect & respond with accuracy.”

It is a “faux pas” to bring up a connection between mass migration and “long hospital waiting lists, not enough school places, or too much traffic on the M1” according to the JCWI. Finally, the London-based campaigners for open borders demand politicians stop promising to “slash immigration” or “remove illegal [immigrants]”.

The group, who last month complained that migrants have “increasingly … been subject to hostile public debate” in Britain, has consistently criticised attempts by the government to control immigration and rhetoric painting migrants in less than flattering terms.

In 2015, after David Cameron referred to migrants hoping to break into Britain illegally, the JCWI said the then prime minister’s choice of words”ignites the flames of xenophobia”.

“Such ‘tabloid style’ language is unnecessary and demeaning. Any continued rhetoric on such a sensitive subject will undo decades of race relations work in the UK. It will also undermine our respect and standing in the world,” the group claimed in a statement.

Last month, Amnesty International cautioned would-be MPs not to speak out against uncontrolled migration. Pointing to a rise in reported hate crimes after the Brexit vote, and the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox, the pro-mass migration NGO issued a statement which “warn[s] all those standing as candidates in the forthcoming general election that their choice of language can have serious consequences”.


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