‘Je Suis Migrant’ Trends As Mediterranean Boat Disaster Death Toll Rises

On January 7, 2015, the phrase “Je Suis Charlie” became ingrained into the consciousness of people across the world. The hashtag #JeSuisCharlie showed the power of social media, as people came together to stand in solidarity with those killed in a murderous attack on the officers of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Since then the words Je Suis, meaning “I am,” has been attached to a wide range causes some altruistic, some less so.

As time has progressed, some have begun to feel that Je Suis is being overused, undermining the important message of solidarity that was intended when it was first used. Last weekend, Metro reported that fans of controversial British TV personality Katie Hopkins started to use the hashtag ‘Je Suis Katie‘ as a means of defending Hopkins after she wrote a piece in the Sun in the wake of the death of over 400 migrants who drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe.

Hopkins wrote that Europe should “send gunboats” rather than rescue boats, and that migrants boats should be burned on the shore. Hopkins supporters used “Je Suis Katie” as a means of counteracting a wave of revulsion that swept the UK in the wake of Hopkins comments.

Whilst Hopkins may have her “Je Suis Katie” supporters, it appears they are in a minority. The Guardian reports today that over 200,000 people have signed a petition demanding that Hopkins be sacked from her job as a columnist on the Sun.

Today the hashtag Je Suis is once again emerging on social media, this time as “Je Suis Migrant,” as outraged Europeans call on their governments to mount a humanitarian effort to save the lives of desperate migrants who are dying in their thousands. The Washington Post reports that “Je Suis Migrant” is trending in several European countries, as people once again stand in solidarity with those who have lost their lives. Perhaps ironically, “Je Suis Migrant” seems to have originated in Paris, France, whence it took its rise after the Charlie Hebdo attack.

The L.A. Times reports that over 3,500 migrants lost their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean last year, and BBC News reports that The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) says deaths in 2015 are 30 times higher than the same period last year and could rise to 30,000 this year. An estimated 1,500 migrants have died attempting the crossing in the last week, including hundreds of children.

Perhaps the emergence of “Je Suis Migrant” will help to ensure that European governments put measures in place to avert what may be developing into a humanitarian disaster.

[Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images]