Channel Crossings – Open Letter To UK Broadcast Media, 18 August 2020

18 August 2020


To whom it may concern,

Seeking asylum is not illegal

By filming – without consent – refugees crossing the Channel in order to escape war, poverty and destitution, you are painting a target on the backs of the blameless, and feeding dangerous, divisive narratives which fuel violence and hatred.

It is not your job to interview and broadcast the plight of refugees in a way which endangers the lives of human beings once they reach shore. It is not your job to support the government and their policy on asylum seekers. It is not your job to provide “balance” by offering the viewpoints of right-wing, unelected zealots. It is your job to state facts. The facts are these:

  1. It is not illegal to cross a border.
  2. It is not illegal to seek asylum.
  3. A “migrant” is somebody who moves to find work and better circumstances. The individuals you have callously captured on film, without permission, are not migrants, they are refugees fleeing war and persecution. This is a distinction that any reasonable human being could understand.
  4. If you are broadcasting a dangerous journey without offering any kind of assistance, you are complicit in endangering their lives.
  5. You are entrusted by the public to provide information. “Debate” is not news. It is opinion.

When you broadcast refugees without their consent, offering only the perspectives of zealots and government policy to pad out the story, you are not providing balance. You are dehumanising people who are enduring heartbreak. None of us are illegal. This is not polemic or left-wing rhetoric, this is fact, with foundation in the human rights legislation which applies to each and every human being.

When you glibly ask a group of refugees on a boat where they are from, you are endangering them, and feeding into extremist, right-wing rhetoric. You, as a media, are ignoring the basis of their suffering, displaying effect without reasonable consideration of cause. You are displaying these humans in a style akin to reality television. It is not acceptable.

This is not about left-wing or right-wing. This is about base level humanity and compassion. We would be interested to know how your crews acted after your reports were finished. Did you at any stage offer space on your vessels for – and let us bear this in mind – human beings who were not committing a crime? Did you offer food? Water? Shelter? Or is it simply the case that you wrapped the story and safely returned to shore?

With respect and genuine curiosity, we offer you these questions, and hope for a valid response. These questions are not rhetorical. The Unity Centre Glasgow and the list of organisations represented below are concerned with the well-being of innocent people suffering in unthinkable circumstances, we hope you can answer.

  1. At any point, did you offer assistance to the groups that you captured on film?
  2. Were you at any point able to consider the motivations of these groups from a humanistic perspective during your coverage? And if not, why not?
  3. Did you consider the danger to the individuals aboard these rudimentary vessels, by broadcasting them?
  4. What editorial decisions were made regarding the coverage of these groups?
  5. To the individual journalists: can you genuinely say, in all good conscience, that these reports are in no way exploitative?
  6. Under what editorial auspices are you bound to provide “balance” and “debate”, when what you filmed was not an illegal action?

You are members of a free press and as such, you are not bound to editorialising from the Government of your audience. Why, then, are you compelled to frame this ongoing humanitarian disaster in such an exploitative way? You must know that you are fuelling narratives which genuinely endanger people. You must know that any faces you captured on film are the faces of terrified, destitute people who will now undoubtedly be targets of ire, if and when they are able to reach the United Kingdom.

We expect better of our national press. We expect truth and we expect basic humanity. We do not expect refugees and asylum seekers to be presented as if they are attractions in a zoo. Martin Luther King stated that “All labour that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence “. As members of the press the duty of care should not be ignored when the lives of the people that you broadcast are at risk.

It is critical that you as the press understand the impact of your coverage in this instance.


Babu, Caseworker
The Unity Centre Glasgow


  1. Asylum Education & Legal Fund
  2. Associated Sussex Refugee and Migrant Self Support Group
  3. Action for Refugees in Lewisham
  4. Brighton Migrant Solidarity
  5. CARAG
  6. Cranhill Development Trust
  7. Clear Project
  8. Entraide (Mutual Aid)
  9. Europe Roma organisation
  10. Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit
  11. Hexham Quaker Meeting, Northumberland
  12. International Federation of Iraqi Refugees-IFIR
  13. Keith Lomax (Watkins Solicitors)
  14. Leeds No Borders
  15. Migration UK
  16. MORE Glasgow
  17. Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (PAFRAS)
  18. Rapar
  19. Refugee Support Devon
  20. Sante Refugee Mental Health Access Project
  21. St. Augustine’s Centre
  22. The Bare UK
  23. Ubuntu Women’s Shelter