Gary Lineker and Lily Allen – love them or loathe them? Their pro-refugee outspokenness has sparked off a media backlash that strikes at the heart of what it means to be British in a post-Brexit world. Is it British to extend hospitality towards outsiders in need, or is it British to defend the nation from being overtaken by strangers who will only deplete already-scarce resources? These are questions that demand moral and practical positions which are inseparable.
They’re not people: nobody would tolerate hearing about the drowning of human beings over and over again. At best they are bleak but intangible statistics, the object of a bit of tutting before mundane everyday life takes over. For others, they are an unwanted and uninvited swarm that Fortress Europe must keep out: full of undeserving would-be leeches who have no place in the west. In the hierarchy of death, anyone labelled “migrant” must take their place somewhere near the bottom.