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2013.08.16 09:12

Furore over The Independent‘s decision to publish inflammatory anti-Lithuanian cartoon

Victoria Leigh | The Lithuania Tribune 2013.08.16 09:12

Concerns have been raised about the attitude towards Lithuanian and Eastern European migrant workers in the UK with the publishing of a cartoon in British daily The Independent depicting four asphyxiated Lithuanian people on 13 August 2013. 

Concerns have been raised about the attitude towards Lithuanian and Eastern European migrant workers in the UK with the publishing of a cartoon in British daily The Independent depicting four asphyxiated Lithuanian people on 13 August 2013.

Lithuanian Ambassador to the UK Asta Skaisgirytė Liauškienė expressed her resentment of such portrayals of Lithuanian nationals in an open letter to editor of The Independent Amol Rajan.

“Your newspaper published a cartoon of four asphyxiated Lithuanian men. I regret to see that could ever publish such a despicable, tasteless, racist and xenophobic cartoon,” she said.

“Lithuanians have continuously lived in the UK for over a hundred years. The British Government had never accepted the Soviet occupation of Lithuania, and our bilateral relations continue to grow from strength to strength.

“Further, Lithuanians who have made Britain their home are responsible contributors to the well-being of the UK economy. It therefore underlines the positive aspects of immigration, something which was wiped out from the perspective of the author of the cartoon,” the Ambassador continued.

In further developments, the deputy editor of The Independent has expressed that the cartoon was absolutely not criticism of Lithuania, of Lithuanians or of economic migrants.

“The letter further explains that the cartoon was aimed at certain discussions taking place about the Labour Law in the British parliament, which are currently underway and have sparked a number of debates. At the end of the letter, the author expressed regret that the readers were offended,” said the head of the Lithuanian embassy in London to BNS on 14 August.

By way of response, Skaisgirytė said: “It seems to me that it is a very good response, it was fast and is, as a matter of fact, an apology.”

The cartoon published in The Independent on Tuesday shows a plastic Tesco package of human bodies.

Labels on the packaging read “Migrant Workers, Cheap Labour Value Pack, Produce of Eastern Europe, 2 for the price of 1” as well as “Every Lithuanian Helps,” a pun on the famous Tesco slogan ‘Every Little Helps.”

A counter-cartoon, depicting The Independent as a less than credible publication, have since circulated on social media sites such as Facebook.

British companies such as Tesco have been criticised for favouring workers from overseas, particularly Eastern European nations such as Lithuania and Poland, who are willing to work for less than their British counterparts, whilst employers have slammed the suggestion that they should change their recruitment practices to favour British workers.

Simon Walker, head of the Institute of Directors, said “Discriminating in any way against EU migrant labour would not only be illegal and entirely contrary to all the principles of the free market.”

“This would also damage Britain’s growth prospects,” he continued.

  

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