Friday 28th August. News came through of an horrific discovery in Austria. 71 refugees, including three children and one baby, were found dead in a lorry there. Adding to a very grim day, reports emerged that a boat packed with refugees had sunk off the coast of Libya, with 200 people feared dead.
One would have thought that such a double humanitarian disaster would have softened the heart of the most hardened Fleet Street editor.
Cold, dirty and hungry, at the mercy of traffickers and death, the Syrian refugees who cross Europe to reach a safe haven.
You would have thought that the Daily Express might want to reflect the news of the twin tragedies with some prominence. However, the news was tucked away on Page 5. “The seal that just wanted a cuddle” and “Chateau for the cost of a semi” stories got more prominence on pages 3 and 2 respectively.
But what appalls me is the story, and the headline, with which the Express, whose Editor is Hugh Whittow, choose for their front page on Saturday 29th August:
Inside: The pictures that prove…MIGRANTS SWARM TO BRITAIN
So, not only did the Daily Express not cover the double refugee tragedy with any great prominence, they went to the opposite extreme and chose the day after up to 271 refugees had been killed seeking a safe refuge to describe refugees using a word normally used for insects.
It is a disgrace, Hugh Whittow. What’s more it is completely un-British. We have a proud tradition of giving shelter to refugees, not least to Jews during the Second World War.