The debate over migration is tearing Europe apart. It’s not just German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition that seems in danger of collapse over the issue; the election of a populist, anti-immigration government in Italy has created yet another political crisis for the EU, one that threatens to pull apart the founding members of the European political project. Can dialogue and compromise endure?

It doesn’t feel like anybody is pulling any punches in the debate. Full-throated attacks on migrants and refugees are a daily occurrence in European media, and politicians certainly seem able to say whatever is on their mind (no matter how inflammatory it may be). Some, however, argue that “political correctness” is controlling the debate, limiting what we can do and say. Are they right? Or is it just that there should always be some limits of basic human decency in terms of what is publicly acceptable?

In order to take a closer look at the local impact of the refugee crisis, we have launched our ‘Cities & Refugees‘ project – aimed at fostering a Europe-wide dialogue between citizens, refugees and asylum seekers, NGOs, politicians, and European leaders. The emphasis is on connecting local, everyday life at the city level to decisions made in Brussels and national capitals.

Today, we are looking at Béziers in southern France. Béziers is no stranger to the debate around political correctness. The mayor of Béziers, Robert Ménard, has been at the centre of numerous controversies, including being fined 2,000 euros (plus damages) after claiming there were “too many Muslims” in schools in his town, and attempting to record the numbers based on students’ first names. He has also launched a war against kebabs, and filmed himself telling Syrian asylum seekers they are “not welcome“. To some, he is a champion of free speech and reason; to others, a fascist and a demagogue.

Curious to know more about the debate around refugees, migrants, free speech, and hate speech in Béziers? We’ve put together some facts and figures in the infographic below (click for a bigger version).

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Yvetta, who believes that the fear of being branded “racist” is limiting what politicians can say about immigration and refugees. She calls this “political correctness gone mad”.

It seems like a bold claim to make, given that the discourse on migration has shifted so much over the past decade (some would argue that the so-called “Overton window” now opens onto a rather ugly view). Certainly, ideas that were considered shocking and unthinkable a few years ago are now standard political fare.

However, to get a response to Yvetta’s argument, we spoke to Jean-Philippe Turpin, Director of the French NGO La Cimade’s Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers in Béziers. Did he agree that political correctness was restricting the debate on refugees?

Image of a citizenYes, I agree, in the sense that it’s a debate in which there are a lot of emotions, and people engage in the debate with emotions, right off the bat. So, indeed, what she says is not completely wrong, seeing as when we debate about questions of immigration, it leads to appeals to emotion. That is the problem today with that sort of debate.

To get another perspective, we put the same comment to Renaud Camus, controversial French writer and author of the “Great Replacement” (a book apparently much-admired by Béziers’ mayor, Robert Ménard). In 2014, Camus was convicted of incitement to racial hatred. Does he believe that critical voices are being silenced by the charge of “racism”?

Ah yes! Totally agree! I think that anti-racism creates a lot more censorship than racism, which does not possess the means to silence anyone anymore. Anti-racist censorship is all the more effective because it is largely internal, internalised, in individuals and citizens. Not only are people afraid of being labelled racists, but they are afraid to judge themselves. Not only do they not dare to say what they think, but they dare not think it. They dare not see what they see. They dare not understand what they understand. They dare not even suffer what they suffer: exile on the spot, disempowerment, permanent humiliation.

On a deeper level, I think that the question of ‘race’ has been at the secret centre of the whole ideological debate, and therefore of the current situation. For the past century, this question underwent two successive captures, two kidnappings. It was first taken hostage by racists, who reduced it to scientific or pseudo-scientific data without much interest, stripping it of all cultural and literary dimensions: that’s what I explain in my short book The Word “Race”. It was then locked up, sequestered, by the anti-racists, who contented themselves with overthrowing the worldview of the racists, and doing the complete opposite. As I wrote about in my book, The Second Career of Adolf Hitler – less criminal than the former, but with even wider consequences. Racism made Europe a field of ruin; anti-racism, or the fear of being called racist, as your reader says, makes it a slum: a still slightly-privileged district – but not for long – of a global shantytown, the shantytown.

Next up, we had a comment from Manuela, who argues that the problem is not political correctness, but rather “nationalist” rhetoric from politicians. According to her, politicians use nationalism simply to get votes, rather than out of any real interest for the people.

How would Jean-Philippe Turpin, from the French pro-refugee and pro-migrant organisation La Cimade, respond?

Image of a citizenI would say that it’s more complicated than that. I think that, today, immigration is a theme that allows certain people to be elected, so it’s an electoral issue that’s very interesting for those campaigning. The fundamental issue is that they don’t address this question with the necessary maturity and intelligence. Immigration is a fact; it should not be considered simply as an ideological issue. So, she is incorrect to say it’s just nationalist rhetoric, but it is indeed used by politicians for electoral reasons.

Nationalism uses popular fears for electoral reasons, but fear is a bad counsellor. That’s the issue here. You can be “for” or “against” something, but there are also facts to consider. Politics should be about how to – given those facts – act pragmatically. That’s what politicians should be doing, yet that’s not what they’re doing today. They stoke and fuel fears about this issue.

What would Renaud Camus say to the same comment?

I do not know what nationalism really is and I do not care much about it. The desire to save your people from disappearing by dilution, and your country from the invasion by migratory submersion, this desire has nothing to do with nationalism. It’s more despair, patriotism, love or survival instinct, as you wish. If politicians want to rely on this desire to get votes, great, good for them. It would be only necessary that they not betray, then, the votes which they thus captured.

Is political correctness making it more difficult to discuss the refugee crisis? Or is nationalist rhetoric the real problem? And does populism have a vital place in democracy? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: (c) BigStock – hadrian; PORTRAIT CREDITS: Renaud Camus – CC / Flickr – Renaud Camus

63 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. Ivan

    The fact that for politically correct reasons you still insist on calling them refugees when everyone knows they are financial migrants proves the point.

    Political correctness is a cancer that affects all aspect of life it touches negativity, including the EU’s ‘migrant’ crisis.

    • Amphib

      “Everyone knows”… in your deluded right wing bubble only. The civil wars and unrest in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea, etc are things that are really happening.

  2. Martin

    Political correctness is just the left side of the medal, on the right side there’s populism. Both are appeals to emotion that I don’t want in political discourse.

    • Ivan

      They have nothing to do with each other, Political correctness is a tool to force changes to society against the will of the people while populism is the voice of the people.

    • Martin

      Ivan it has become less and less the voice of the people and more and more the voice of the mindless mob. Just a paradigma made to cause discord instead of discussions, emotions instead of thoughts.

    • Cheryl

      Political correctness is a covert way to silence people.

    • Martin

      Cheryl – I have a lingering doubt that in its conception PC had some good intentions, but right now it’s creating echo chambers, rifts between people and no dialogue whatsoever.

  3. Atanas

    Can’t resolve an issue if you are not allowed to address it correctly using the proper words.

  4. Stef

    The media has a big part with its bias coverage.

  5. Larry

    Is nationalist rhetoric, fuelled by Kremlin/Putin’s propaganda machine, migrants – a millennia old scapegoat used by politicians to control the weak minded – blame them who have no rights and cannot defend.

    Insulting people you don’t know, people who have been through hell, either because of war or poverty, is inhumane, low!
    And if all you care is just about yourself and that low paid, unqualified job that a migrant might take it … than you have to do better, soon automation and robots will replace all these jobs anyway.

    To remind everyone the definition of ‘political correctness’ – the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalise, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.

    • Oliver

      In short terms, political corrrectness is just speach someone does not like and thus it does stop communication for alot of speech is not allowed.

    • Oliver

      And by your stance, we take in the economic migrants and they get the low paying jobs that soon will be automated, at that point they will lose jobs and they will go to live on the streets, go into crime ect. Look at sweden.

    • Larry

      No Olivier, is more on the ‘insulting others’ side of things, on racial basis, skin colour, origins, etc etc. Nothing is stopping you to communicate with people decently, argument and debate an issue without trowing dirt and insulting them. It’s called civilisation and billions of people died, that includes many of you ancestors, to achieve this level of peace and decency. Remind you that not long ago millions of innocent people, that include women and children were gazed and burned for wearing a label.

    • Alexandra

      Thank you for this! People who think that they can’t argue their views on migration with others because of politically correctness are people who are happy to be vulgar and racist, demeaning and offensive towards others that they don’t even know. It’s not about being politically correct, is about being a decent human being. If you have some valid reasons and points that you can discuss and argue without downgrading another person’s value and their life’s value then you’re more than welcome to do so. If your only way of communicating is by doing the opposite of that then you are better doing everyone a favor and keep your opinions to yourself.

    • Larry

      “Look at sweden.” – I am looking at it, OFFICIAL STATS shows clearly that most crime by far is due to natives rather than migrants quote “The studies show that the majority of those suspected of crimes were born in Sweden to two Swedish-born parents.”
      Migrants are poor people, trying to make a living for themselves, going through hell, to leave their families and friends behind, to travel to a foreign country, were most don’t know anyone, not even the language culture and where they will be treated .. well like second class citizens most of their life. Most of these people will live humble and work and do whatever it takes to do right.
      Sure they will be some rough elements among them but the real criminals usually travel/fly first class.
      You should hear these people stories, the hardship they have been through … it will change your perception about them.

    • Bódis

      Whenever there’s a discussion of a European issue, some idiotroll comes along and declares “Putin did it”! It seems that without Putin this would be the perfect world with the perfect society, would it really?
      The intellectual performance behind these comments is frigging ridiculous.

    • Bódis

      That shows the asylum applications, war zones mostly – Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria – so what’s your point? Civilians, women, children flee war zones, this was not the case before these wars started.

      And sorry “some idiotroll”? I hope that you’re referring to Putin not to me, right?

    • Eva-Gabriela

      Idiot and Merkel s agent. If people respect law and don’t t cross borders illegally that discussion and problems don’t t exist. So …qe must cry because now Europeans want to stop illegal migration. Trol

    • Larry

      Why do you think the idiot, Putin, is Merkel’s agent? I doubt that very much! One is a humanitarian who put her entire political career in jeopardy trying to help war refugees and the other one is a war criminal!

    • Tony

      Larry women and children? Have you seen the “refugees” coming into EU? Plenty of images showing an overwhelming majority of males. And many from countries with no war. And their integration, especially if islamic, is null. As well as all the problems caused at the centers they are being held. Yes, not all do not integrate, but those that do are pretty much anecdotal. And lets not even start with illegal migration.

    • Larry

      Tony, as far as I recall from Syria, specifically, I think the male/female ratio was 53% – 47% with some 15% or so children.
      Poverty/economical migrant will have a higher ratio for males – as it makes sense they will travel first to settle and bring their family latter.
      Let aside them war refugees which clearly is a humanitarian act (like I said before war started there were few migrants – anyone can check that), the fact that people travel for better jobs, better life, to escape poverty, etc is the norm ever since we existed.
      Take UK, an average 140000 British citizens are emigrating every year, most for a better life and prospects … and is not like they don’t have a job because immigrants took their low paid jobs .. they want something better.

    • randomguy2018


      The guys/gals paid by Soros or with agenda will blame Putin for everything. Even your lunch disappearing.
      I dont even care much about Putin. Hes currupt. Most my country doesnt like him.
      We still dont want immigration. It has nothing to do with Putin.

      The Soros types will say
      a)Russia is a falling empire, and poor, not a power
      b)Russia is a threat to every child, woman and man.
      to democracy.

      What they really mean is hes a threat to liberal “democracy”.
      Something I hope never becomes dominant in Visegrad.

    • Tarquin Farquhar

      The original objectives of Political Correctness’ were honest, decent and laudable.

      Unfortunately, extremists (both deliberate and naive) have hijacked the principles of PC to the extent that it is now a means to:

      silence fact,
      berate legitimate concerns,
      tarnish communities without a voice,
      ‘encourage’ self-censorship and
      control language.

      PC is Newspeak – “1984” is here and now!

  6. Marquitos

    Fascism and prejudice is making it difficult.

  7. Björn

    I find it’s bad to yust call all of the refugees that are not political for no need to be refugee when we are the one how let our companis destroy their livelyhood. Besides we were Robbing their coutries for 100 of yers

    • Pier


    • Björn

      I’m talkin of firms like Unlivers, fishermen how fish yust off The African cost but are EU boats. Besides also the Green house effekt is to blame on us to.

      We also have to colonial time in top of that.

    • Ivan

      You can take responsibility for perceived crimes carried out over 100 years ago if you like, just don’t expect everyone else to follow you.

    • Björn

      Every death to the refugees in camps Are to blame on the politics in Western coutries. And by now thw worst one is estern eu and usa. Humanity and equaltey and safe haven is always and must always be i min piorety nothing else matterd more or we shuld downgrade us to an evil manmal

  8. Pier


  9. Alexander

    without political correctness TRUMP happens ;)

    • Cheryl

      Trust me that’s a great thing!

    • Alexander

      Cheryl – Not for Europe so far…

    • Alexander

      Cheryl Not for Europe so far…

  10. Zbigniew

    Can we call it a crisis that people want to migrate (irrespective to reason) to Europe? The so called ‘political correctness’ is a blown egg and an excuse for not implementing simple solutions.

  11. EU Reform- Proactive

    First some history fueling the EU “pc” confusion:

    The term “pc” saw its light in the 1920 “Soviet”- USSR era. Now it has become a tool for cynics.

    What has the “Supreme Soviet” (“Sovietnik” = Councilor) and the “supreme EU” (EC) and the EU Councillors in common? Can one teach old dogs new tricks- or- does (will) any supranational (political) attempted to abolish our sovereignty- in whichever form & disguise- end in similar fashion?

    How are the EU Dublin “accords” (28 Members) related to the “1951 UNHCR Refugee Convention” (145 global Members)? Which supranational law is superior- the UN or the EU? Who decides? The International Court of Justice or EU court? Or is it Mrs Merkel, Mr. Juncker, nobody or everybody?

    Isn’t it time that the UN (which includes ALL sovereign European nations and the EU as “observer”) engage in a total re- scripting of the “outdated” 1951 UN Convention on Refugees?

    A total re- engineering and modernization of the “UNHRC Convention” might be helpful for all our politicians to understand, interpret & implement such Convention uniformly under today’s (changed) circumstances- with the consent of the voters!

    The varieties of “Refugees” need to be clearly defined- not by the EU or Merkel (“all welcome”), but the UN.

    Agreements, solutions & procedures should be worked out by the UN in its NY HQ- not Brussels or Dublin- applicable to all 145 Members.

    Definitely “no shopping” or “all welcome” allowed!

  12. randomguy2018

    This is a moderate version of what I really think… (lets see if it passes the PC test).
    There isnt just a refuge crisis.There is an immigration crisis. In general the whole EU is a crisis itself. Demographically, socially, morally, mentally, physically, etc.
    And the corrupt, sold out, politicians who refuse to talk about important issues.
    Those topics are considered “racist”, “homophobic”, “xenophobic”, “populist”, “Islamophobic”, “antisemitic” by the Trotskyists in power.
    The ancient rulers of Europe are rolling in their graves. And that Charlemagne prize is an insult to the real guy, look at some of the names on that list.

  13. catherine benning

    Is political correctness making it difficult to discuss the refugee crisis?

    This so called ‘crisis’ was created by and encouraged, to this day, by politicians who want to remove European culture and democracy to replace it with chaos. As, when humans are in a flummox they are easy to control and to impose the will of a dominator on.

    Hence, the forcing of male/female separation into individuals making them no longer unified by matrimonial expectation. Women left singular are, in the main, controlled by anxiety. Constantly searching for domestic sanctuary in security. Which they never achieve. This turns into an unstable and maddening environment for all who live in it, including their children. There is little or no peace. The greatest harm to mankind, throughout the world, has been the atom bomb on male/female relationships via political correctness, through the diminishing of institutional matrimony.

    Political correctness banishes all forms of debate. Can we speak openly and honestly about Israel and the Palestinians without being accused of anti semitism? Can we speak of the rights of children who are forced, as babies via surrogates, into being raised by gay adopting couples without it being referred to as homophobic? Can we dare to say we prefer to have our country left as the culture and values it had prior to being invaded by migrants, without being referred to as racist? Can we say we don’t want our children to be forced into wearing trousers at school by having skirts banned. As they are now doing in my country England, because some, and very few, children want to believe they are the opposite gender to the one they were born with? Girls, you see, must give up their right to carry their femininity openly by being frilly and in skirts, for the sake of others (female sacrifice again) by pretending they are happy having their legs covered like boys….Does this really smell of religion telling them their bodies are too attractive to be seen in school with legs asunder? Extreme religion then threatens that should they wear a skirt in school, they will have rape imposed upon them and it will be their fault, as they wore an enticing dress.

    In my country the reason for this move on banning skirts is really because so many children and female teachers are now being raped whilst in attendance. And the government doesn’t want to have to do anything about the perpetrators. Just as they don’t about the soaring murder rate we have to the levels of a war zone, especially in London.

    Political correctness is the madness of seriously psychotic controllers. The ones who wants to change everything from a natural progression to one that is manipulated by their wishes. It is a serious illness and we are being governed by the seriously ill, otherwise it would not be tolerated in law.

    Political correctness is making life itself not only difficult but intolerable. It is time the citizens refused to accept it. And how you do it is by cutting off the money supply making it possible for it to continue. Don’t pay the bill for it. Don’t shop where it takes place. Home school, refuse any meeting which promotes it. Vote for an alternative at the ballot box to anyone who is trying to sell you any form of PC either because their party is pushing it, or, because they themselves want to promote it. For whatever reason.

    Where did political correctness really flourish?

    How to fight for your freedom

    • randomguy2018

      Im not sure if they accept my second reply here in one day…

      Bravo for saying it in good English. I have observed what they are pushing in UK and its very sad.

      The Bolsheviks are proud of the EU. Maybe the gulags will come for people labeled those names. Lose your job, go to prison, etc. It will be thought crimes sentenced to 5 years in labor.
      The EU is really nasty at this point. Hopefully it never gets worse. Maybe someone better will come along compared to the three Ms: May, Macron, Merkel.

  14. Cheryl

    I came across your site. Not from Europe, but here are my thoughts.

    By the time Obama was at the end of his presidency I would say I worried about expressing my views. If someone said boys were girls on a FB post, no one really dared to argue even though I’m sure most of us found it ridiculous. You either have XX or XY chromosomes. You may THINK you’re the opposite sex, but it doesn’t make it Anymore true than an anorexic is actually “fat”
    Obama kept dividing us by race, gender, sexual orientation,. Race relations were far worse after him. He supported terrorism with American money. He was sabotaging it even though the media never said anything negative about him. Anyhow…

    Then came the 2016 Election. This brash totally un-PC guy that I could tell truly loves his country won the election.(When the MSM starting freaking out it was so obvious there wasn’t fair coverage& that their polls were biased )

    I literally felt & still do that we had just saved our country. Even though the Left keeps calling Trump & his voters X, y, z. I don’t care. Even though they have the media, we’re winning. The economy is winning, etc. Everyday we’re winning battles big & small.

    Politically correctness was a clever way to police (the left & their media) are only trying to silence people. You don’t agree with them, you’re now x, y, and z. Very dangerous.

    So as for immigration. I think the EU countries in general are ruining their countries by taking on so many. Some limited, and vetted immigration is ok. But it is unsustainable to keep giving out free benefits from the taxes of those who earned it.

    If you don’t see the change in countries today, you certainly will.
    Culturally, Mosques going up, churches going down. Since the Muslims have far more children, Sharia law will only be a matter of time. It’s already begun in some place. Crimes, rape up considerably.
    People are worried about hurting damn feelings?! ACCURATELY report who did the crime.

    I don’t care about PC anymore. Stand up and protect the culture of your country. It doesn’t make you an x, y or z. It make you a Patriot.

    The left is nothing more than Globalist trying to achieve their NWO goals by ruining countries sovereignty.

    Just my un PC opinion

  15. Hartmann

    There is no refugees crisis, because there are no refugees. Show me one document from EU where you find refugees. It´s a migrant crisis powered by Soros.
    As you know he vaccinates last week the new PM in Spain.

  16. Tarquin Farquhar

    The original objectives of Political Correctness’ were honest, decent and laudable.

    Unfortunately, extremists (both deliberate and naive) have hijacked the principles of PC to the extent that it is now a means to:

    silence fact,
    berate legitimate concerns,
    tarnish communities without a voice,
    ‘encourage’ self-censorship and
    control language.

    PC is Newspeak – “1984” is here and now!

  17. jthk

    When EU is unable to leave the post-Cold War transition, when EU is still thinking of military hard power is a way to achieve perpetual peace, there will always be war and there will always be refugees. In this knowledge and IT era, when wealth, resources and power are all achievable with knowledge and technology, I do not see why people are still thinking of waging wars. The development of the Earth Village and the disappear of national boundary, even nationality and race become so vague, there is need to see things in a global way. If the West is proud of its democracy, it should not be forgotten that it means “government of people”. People do not want war is one thing very clear and definitely, this is a universal value of all peoples.

  18. Ivan

    Political correctness is a cancer on society used by the left to force their barking mad ideology on to the people.

    • Manuel

      To be politically correct is always necessary so that one can not go from words to slaps :)

    • Arnout

      Ivan is always so loving and kind to people and totally not forcing his spamming attitude on others.

      He must be left and love migrants.

    • Ivan

      Arnout Posthumus (<-Troll) Are insults all you have comrade ?

  19. Christophe

    Define refugee and explain to the Lemmings there wouldn’t be a crisis if the Illuminati didn’t exist.

  20. Adnan

    summary of all politically correct cacophony in western media and politics.
    – number one cause of frustration against refugees, asylum seeker, migrants call them whatever you like, the assumption that these outsiders are eating their social welfare state.
    – other main source of frustration, daily , ordinary xenophobia is fascist modernism

    • Stephen

      Or we just have no interest in them or want them

  21. Harry

    There are shades of political correctness. Unfortunately like everything else many times the use of political correctness goes too far thus any call for action becomes inaction.

  22. Julia

    Yes. Temper justice with mercy situation appropriately not on the basis of political correctness.

  23. George

    Political correctness is a bunch of crap. It will surely bring about the end of civilization

  24. Tiago

    Political correctness is part of the problem. The main problem is polarisation, you either support all kinds of immigration or you are totally against it (racist, etc) Well i dont belong in neither of these 2 groups, i support immigration but im against ilegal immigration, which, as the msae says, against the alw and therefore a crime. And we should stop these wishful thinking that immigration solves the poverty problem, only with developing Africa, immigration will stop… So EU stop selling guns, stop making wars and contribute for the developing nations…

  25. Bernard

    Yes, in particular the insistence of some that anyone who opposes open borders is automatically ‘racist’.

required Your email will not be published

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of new comments. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies on your device as described in our Privacy Policy unless you have disabled them. You can change your cookie settings at any time but parts of our site will not function correctly without them.