Search icon


17th Nov 2015

Comment: #Refugeeswelcome seems like a very long time ago

Nooruddean Choudry

The mood changes so quickly.

A matter of weeks ago, the internet was racked with urgent concern for desperate refugees fleeing Syria. Their suffering wasn’t a new thing, but there was a sudden swell of concern for their well-being and safety.

These things grow rapidly in the information age. Social media allows people to learn about things and share their feelings with friends and followers with unprecedented speed and momentum.

The sight of young children being washing up on the shores of Europe was enough for many to thing ‘F**king hell. That’s not on. We’ve got to help.’ In the saddest, most morbid way, it personalised the situation. Maybe it reminded folk of their own kids.

Whatever it was, it changed the collective mood. Suddenly you saw far more press and coverage about the refugee crisis. People started to relate to the forcibly displaced in a way that they hadn’t before

Kind words and sentiments about refugees began to spread and gain traction. It started to trend. We saw ‘Refugees welcome’ flags at football grounds and on social media avatars. People felt good about sharing stuff and raising awareness.

Then Paris happened. A clinical and horrendous bout of murderous attacks by the very organisation that had forced normal Syrians out of their own country. Vile, cowardly terrorism was now on our own doorstep.

The attitude towards refugees shifted overnight. ‘We must help…’ swiftly became ‘I’m sorry but…’

Instead of leading us to relate even further to plight of Islamic State’s everyday victims, our tragedy altered our priorities.

Refugees were amongst the first to be blamed. They were cited as the problem quickly and loudly, without real evidence. At the time of writing most if not all the key suspects are of European nationality, save a false Syrian passport or two.

There is a growing consensus that we shouldn’t take any risks. Close the doors and batten down the hatches. We’re sorry, but we’ve got to look after our own.

Innocent Syrians are still fleeing the tyranny of ISIS, but refugees are less welcome now. They’ll have to stay where they are. But of course we must carpet bomb ISIS out of existence, even if the scared civilians we no longer want may die with their oppressors.

The mood changes quickly, and so does what is trending – or dare we say fashionable. One terrible night of indiscriminate bloodshed has changed the mood. Refugees welcome? Maybe not so much anymore.