Posters depicting hordes of people queuing, snake-like – we would be forgiven for thinking that these were produced by deeply intolerant regimes of times gone by. Nazi propaganda, perhaps? Sadly, these images of men and boys who looked foreign and poor made their rounds in 2016, in the midst of the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. Did they successfully persuade some people that Britain was no longer able to welcome those in need, or those who had a right to come to the UK?
The message in these posters was clear – our country’s doors were no longer open for the free movement of people across the EU. ‘Foreign folk’ could no longer turn to the UK as a place of safety or refuge. Phrases such as ‘breaking point’ and ‘take back control of our borders’ became commonplace in campaign literature. Right-leaning tabloids fed these sentiments with headlines like ‘Who do you think the EU are?’ and ‘1m migrants to rush in before EU exit’, even referring to High Court judges as ‘enemies of the people’.