How did people respond to the refugee crisis on social media?

In the summer of 2015, stories of the European refugee crisis hit the news. In line with much dominant news discourse on refugees and immigrants, at first the news coverage was quite hostile; however, this temporarily changed when the image of Alan Kurdi began to circulate, provoking a temporary shift in tone (which would harden again later on). Citizens in the UK and other European countries became concerned, both about the scale of human tragedy and the harshness of the discourse from politicians (who they felt did not represent them, and furthermore projected an image of began to organise Facebook groups and crowdfunding campaigns were set up to organise donations of clothing, food and other necessities to be sent to Calais, Kos and other refugee camps. As more refugees began to arrive, campaigns were also set up to help them integrate. Our online ethnography includes examples of these groups.

Many of these groups and campaigns were time-limited initiatives can be understood as offering practical mutual aid in the absence of state support, and the patchiness of that offered by the voluntary sector. However, some of these initiatives were limited in that they did not sustain themselves long-term, and did not build long-term relationships. In this sense, they could be understood as examples of “thin” rather than “thick solidarity” (Rojek and Turner 2001).

The discourse changed again in aftermath of the Paris bombings, the Cologne attacks and other tragedies (which were immediately associated by right-wing politicians and press commentators with refugees from Syria and other countries in the MENA region, although it is unclear if this was the case). The dominant interpretation of these events lent credibility to racist, anti-Muslim discourses associated with the alt right, in which people from Asia and Africa are seen to be abusing the goodwill of European governments and citizens, and are seen as backward and incapable of integrating. These views were expressed in groups on social media as well.

Responses to the refugee crisis on social media

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