Refugees: how to normalise the abnormal

Refugees: how to normalise the abnormal in 75 easy steps.

1) Flood public discourse with falsehoods and straw men, to ensure there are no commonly accepted facts; making serious discussion of a complex issue impossible.

2)Relentlessly conflate asylum with immigration, knowing that the media will play along.

3)Call legitimate asylum seekers “illegal migrants”, confident that the main opposition party won’t challenge you.

4)Conflate the legal with the ethical

5)Shame people for feeling compassion.

6)Make it all about what refugees can do for us, and not about what we can do for them

7)Make people forget what asylum is about

8)Get people who are old enough to know better to forget why we have a Refugee Convention

9)Make people angry at their fellow humans for having the temerity to escape war and seek our help.

10)Foster an environment where people attack lifeboats.

11)If human rights law gets in the way, say the problem is with human rights law and not with you.

12)Condemn people who abuse our system without explaining that we don’t have a proper system to abuse.

13)Offer your thoughts and prayers when people drown, but don't dwell on it for too long.

14)Attack lawyers

15)Sow the impression that asylum seekers confined to hotel rooms are enjoying lavish holidays at taxpayers’ expense.

16)Complain about the cost of looking after asylum seekers, but don’t let them work.

17)Let kids get diphtheria because they may have shared their boat with an Albanian criminal and you can’t take any chances.

18)Promote the idea of acceptable refugees and non-acceptable refugees, based on nationality

19)Make it clear that young men on their own aren’t acceptable refugees, whatever their nationality.

20)Discourage people from thinking about why asylum seekers ARE often young men.

21)Insinuate that young men are all latent criminals and rapists.

22)Tell people asylum seekers have no connection with Britain, without justifying that assertion.

23)Avoid mentioning Britain’s colonial past as relevant to the issue.

24) Say that we take more than our fair share of asylum seekers, making sure to conceal the statistics

25) Say Britain is full up until enough believe it is true.

26)Criminalise and dehumanise people who desperately need your help

27)Criticise the system rather than your own failure to comply with it.

28)Tell people that a system designed in the shadow of World War II and the Holocaust is no longer fit for purpose, when what you really mean is that people were never supposed to come from so far away.

29)Wait until those who remember the war and the Holocaust are no longer with us, so your propaganda will meet less resistance as memories fade.

30)Don’t mention the lack of safe and legal routes

31)Don’t tell people that the existence of tailored schemes for a small number of nationalities is another way of saying that you are willing to make a few exceptions for a default policy of “no asylum”.

32)Talk about refugees entirely in terms of their economic benefit.

33)Talk about the British people’s generosity

34)Talk about our proud history of welcoming refugees

35)Avoid examining our proud history too closely

36) Encourage people to say they believe in helping genuine refugees, without ever asking them what they think that means.

37)Bemoan the number of successful asylum applicants rather than celebrate the fruits of the generosity you like to tell us the British people have.

38)Pretend your main concern is for the safety of those people in the boats

39)Redefine “economic migrant” as “anyone who transited a safe country to come to Britain”. Unless they’re Ukrainian.

40)Let the lie spread that refugees are obliged to apply for asylum in the first safe country they come to.

41)Say ‘we didn’t vote for this” even though it has nothing to do with Brexit

42)Never say publicly that we shouldn’t accept any refugees, even if that’s what you think

43)Congratulate yourself when polls tell you that small boats are high on the list of people’s concerns, even as the public realm collapses and people go without food and heating.

44)Allow the reality that we can’t help everyone to be interpreted as ‘we don’t need to help anyone’

45)Imply that it’s worse to cross a sea border uninvited than a land border.

46)Allow think tanks whose primary concerns are how to reduce immigration levels to lead the debate about how we give sanctuary to those in need

47)Feed your propaganda through think tanks with bland-sounding names like “Centre for Policy Studies”, whose recommendations include smearing those who oppose its policies.

48)Portray asylum-seekers’ human instinct for self-preservation as selfish and calculating.

49)Be racist about Albanians because some forms of racism are OK.

50)Deliberately blur the line between economic migrants and asylum seekers.

51)Claim that your critics are open borders fanatics rather than people who believe in a fair system and competent administration

52)Accuse those dedicated to helping asylum seekers of having a “vested interest”

53)Insult the French while insisting they should do more to help

54)Tell asylum seekers that treating them like unwanted prisoners for the crime of asking for our protection should earn us their undying gratitude .

55)Never ask asylum seekers what they think on TV.

56)Ask people who don’t like your policies if they’d be willing to house a refugee, and act as if this is the cleverest question ever conceived.

57)Make helping people a zero sum gain between “our own” and “others’


58)Tell yourself that the Rwanda policy is both a humane way to treat desperate people who need our help, and so unpleasant that it will deter those same people from getting into a boat and risking their lives at sea.

59)Make people believe that, faced with a highly complex issue, the only option is extreme cruelty; all the more so if inflicted on already highly traumatised people,

60)Persuade ‘liberal’ commentators to write that, while Rwanda may be inhumane, it's the only option.

61)Tell yourself that as long as you give people physical security it’s fine to further mess up their already messed up mental health.

62)Talk up “development partnerships with Rwanda” instead of the forced, involuntary transportation of traumatised people.

63)Turn refugees into commodities for whose removal you are willing to pay a price.

64)Cite other countries’ “offshoring”, without saying how that’s going.

65)Have people believe that transportation to Rwanda was exactly what our ancestors had in mind when they drafted the Refugee Convention

66)Attack church leaders for preaching from the pulpit

67)Claim there’s no room for morality in politics.

68)Claim that the Rwanda policy will deter people from the small boats, when there’s no evidence to back that up.

69)Tell people that being this cruel is a form of kindness

70)Don’t tell us what the UNHCR thinks.

71)When you don’t like international law, blame it on Europe

72)Don’t ask yourself if it would have been appropriate to give German Jews in the 1930s a choice of going to Rwanda or going home.

73)Offshore your humanity

74)Accuse those who criticise the Rwanda policy of racism. Because of course the only reason you could ever have to criticise any sub-Saharan African government would be racism.

75)Mark the birth 2000 years ago of a refugee child by reflecting on a job well done in 2022: a year in which, as a Home Secretary echoed the language of Fascism, a Holocaust survivor told us: “this is exactly how it started – words – with the Nazis”.

Originally tweeted by Richard Haviland (@rfhaviland) on 24/12/2022.