Imagine waking your children in the morning. Imagine feeding and dressing them. Imagine pulling a little girl’s hair into a ponytail, arguing with a little boy about which pair of shoes he wants to wear. Now imagine, as you are doing that, you know later today you will strap their vulnerable bodies into enveloping life jackets and take them with you in a rubber dinghy - through waters that have claimed many who have done the same. Think of the story you’d have to tell to reassure them. Think of trying to make it fun. Consider the emotional strength needed to smile at them and conceal your fear.
There is no "migrant crisis" in the Mediterranean.
What would it feel like if that experience – your frantic flight from war – was then diminished by a media that crudely labelled you and your family "migrants"?
And imagine having little voice to counter a description so commonly used by governments and journalists.
The umbrella term migrant is no longer fit for purpose when it comes to describing the horror unfolding in the Mediterranean. It has evolved from its dictionary definitions into a tool that dehumanises and distances, a blunt pejorative.
It is not hundreds of people who drown when a boat goes down in the Mediterranean, nor even hundreds of refugees. It is hundreds of migrants. It is not a person– like you, filled with thoughts and history and hopes – who is on the tracks delaying a train. It is a migrant. A nuisance.
It already feels like we are putting a value on the word. Migrant deaths are not worth as much to the media as the deaths of others - which means that their lives are not. Drowning disasters drop further and further down news bulletins. We rarely talk about the dead as individuals anymore. They are numbers.
When we in the media do this, when we apply reductive terminology to people, we help to create an environment in which a British foreign minister can refer to "marauding migrants," and in which hate speech and thinly veiled racism can fester.
We become the enablers of governments who have political reasons for not calling those drowning in the Mediterranean what the majority of them are: refugees.
We give weight to those who want only to see economic migrants.
The argument that most of those risking everything to land on Europe’s shores are doing it for money is not supported by the facts.