A top U.N. human rights official Friday urged British tabloids to tone down their rhetoric on migrants, claiming the newspapers used hate speech to describe the human surge fleeing the Middle East and Africa for Europe, the Associated Press reported. Zeid Raad al-Hussein, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, singled out a column in the Sun from last week that compared migrants to “cockroaches,” a term that had been used to describe the Tutsis massacred in the Rwandan genocide in 1994.
The Sun column, published April 17 and written by Katie Hopkins, had the headline, “Rescue boats? I’d use gunships to stop migrants.” Hopkins wrote, “Make no mistake, these migrants are like cockroaches. They might look a bit ‘Bob Geldof’s Ethiopia circa 1984,’ but they are built to survive a nuclear bomb. They are survivors.” She added that she doesn’t care if migrants die. “Show me pictures of coffins, show me bodies floating in water, play violins and show me skinny people looking sad. I still don’t care,” she wrote.
Zeid called the column “simply one of the more extreme examples of thousands of anti-foreigner articles that have appeared in U.K. tabloids over the past two decades,” the AP said.
It wasn’t just the U.N. that has been critical of the Hopkins piece. A Change.org petition calling on the Sun to “remove Katie Hopkins as a columnist” had more than 283,000 supporters as of Friday morning. “The majority of migrants who make this crossing are from war-torn Syria which they flee for their own safety, or Eritrea which they leave to avoid extreme oppression and human rights violations,” the petition said. “We live in a forward-thinking society and Katie Hopkins' views should not be encouraged.”
Migrants crossing from the shores of Libya and Tunisia to southern Europe have become a crisis for Europe. About 800 migrants were believed to have died off the shore of Libya on Saturday when the ship they were traveling in capsized in the deadliest incident of the crisis reported by the U.N. About 2,300 migrants have died making the voyage this year.