Lily Allen went to Calais to raise awareness and the right-wing press fell right for it

Joe Vesey-Byrne
Thursday 13 October 2016 10:45
news
Picture:(left: The Sun, right: Victoria Derbyshire BBC)

Human woman witnesses tragedy and tears fall from her eyes. Naturally, the Sun can't handle it.

Lily Allen visited the refugee camp at Calais referred to as 'the jungle'. As of July the official estimate for the number of refugees living there was 7,300.

Many of these are children, many of whom are unaccompanied and in danger of going missing. On Wednesday the MP for Walthamstow Stella Creasy cited these figures during Prime Minister's Questions.

On 2 July, the Home Office was given details of the 178 children who are still stuck in the Calais refugee camp, but who had a legal right to be here in the UK with their families to keep them safe and protected. Given the delays in acting, what responsibility does the Prime Minister think this Government have to the 18 of those children who have now gone missing?

Keeping attention on the Calais camp has been difficult, but more coverage was given by the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme, which reported on a visit to the camp by the singer Lily Allen.

Allen visited the camp, which as the BBC report points out, is fewer than 100 miles from her recording studio in London.

As well as talking to unaccompanied children, Allen volunteered in a warehouse that distributes donations.

In the interview for the BBC Allen broke down in tears. This was her first time at a refugee camp, and upon meeting refugee children, Allen was overwhelmed.

The pull out quote which the BBC put on their news website, and the Sun promptly leapt upon was this:

I apologise on behalf of my country, I'm sorry for what we've put you through.

This wasn't all she said, but it was enough for some publications to spew bile at Allen for you know, meeting refugee children and feeling emotional about it.

Allen's remarks were part of a conversation with a 13-year-old boy from Afghanistan called ShamShad, who had fled the Taliban and who said his father was in Birmingham.

ShamShad had been at the Calais camp for two months.

He told Allen that he regularly tried to climb onto the top of lorries to enter the UK.

He told her that one boy had died trying this.

He told her that when he was caught he was kicked and slapped by police.

He told her that when he gets to the UK he wants to go to school because he is illiterate.

He told her that the legal process for entering the UK, to which he has a right, takes three to four months.

The Calais camp is being closed in a few weeks.

In response, Allen said this to ShamShad:

It just seems that at three different intervals in this young boy’s life, the English in particular have put you in danger. We’ve bombed your country, put you in the hands of the Taliban and now put you in danger of risking your life to get into our country. I apologise on behalf of my country. I’m sorry for what we have put you through.

Many on both ends of the political spectrum roll their eyes at celebrity activism, but most recognise the possibility that the star in question is perhaps using the microphone given to them to try and change the world.

The Sun had this to say:

(The Sun)

And this.

(The Sun)

And not forgetting this.

(The Sun)

For the editorial stance taken by the Sun, the immoral person is Lily Allen for drinking too much and months later voicing her anguish, not the people complacent enough to leave children in harm's way.

The venom spewed at Allen was not restricted to the Sun. Nor was it just the media. Many on social media decided to make the clever joke of 'apologising on behalf of the UK' for inflicting Lily Allen on the world.

Allen has responded to most of her critics, many of whose tweets have mysteriously since disappeared. She also made this point about her awareness raising visit to Calais:

To donate to the charity with which Lily was working, visit Help Refugees.

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