Protect yourself! Batten down the hatches! They want your jobs, they want your houses and they'll stop at nothing to get you. They'll lower our standard of living, suck the NHS dry and will poison your children's minds! Beware the swarm of migrants... they're coming to get you!

This tosh about a "swarm" of migrants, as described by David Cameron in his recent speech, couldn't be further from the truth. About 31,000 people applied for refugee status in the UK in 2014. Sweden, which has a population of less than 10 million, had 54,000 applications. Germany had 126,000. This is no swarm, this is a trickle. And the numbers of people coming to the UK are just a fraction of the need out there.

Calais migrants by Eurotunnel train
Migrants, such as those in Calais, are demonised by British press and politiciansPHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there are 60 million people worldwide forcibly displaced from their homes. Of these, 51% are children. Over 42,000 people are forced to leave their homes every day in search of safety.

The majority of the world's refugees – 86%– aren't hanging out in Calais, waiting to waiting to jump on a train to their mythical free ride in the UK. They're in developing countries, whose governments are those who can least afford to help. The country with the largest number of refugees in the world is Turkey, host to 1.5 million refugees, a million from Syria alone. Though Turkey is a middle-income country, its GDP is less than one third that of the UK's.

We are not the sole cause of the wave of people wanting to flee their homes, risking life and limb, but we're certainly complicit. When we're not launching an unjust war like in Iraq, we supply arms or train the militaries of conflict-laden countries from Sudan to Ethiopia. We rub shoulders with dictators and warmongers. We turn a blind eye to human rights abusers in order to get access for business in countries where people are oppressed and impoverished.

People come to the UK because we have good PR. They perceive us as the land of opportunity – they fail to see that we're the land of the oppressor. Far from providing a welcoming home, we force migrants to live in virtual cages.

Katie Hopkins
Reality TV contestant Katie Hopkins has referred to migrants as 'cockroaches'Ian Gavan/Getty Images

We prevent them from working. We pay an individual less to live on per week than we spend on a good night out at the pub, all the while encouraging the types of behaviour in their home countries that means more and more people will be displaced, living precarious and insecure lives long into the future.

We seem to be experiencing collective amnesia. We forget that people left these shores for hundreds of years seeking a better life – escaping the plague, class repression and limited economic opportunity.

For the most part, we were welcomed with open arms around the world. We were given land and taught how to survive. We sent our wealth back to the UK and enabled it to prosper. Had we been treated the way we treat migrants today, we would likely have little to share and would be in our own internal war, as far from the safe haven we enjoy today as one could imagine.

The people risking their lives are doing so not out of greed but out of need. They deserve our compassion and our welcome, not us turning up the barricades.

If anyone should be described as a "swarm", it would be the politicians and commentators such as Katie Hopkins who have jumped on the anti-immigration bandwagon, dehumanising people who are fleeing from terrible situations at all costs, stoking the flames of racism and discontent. The myth-making has finally embedded itself into the British psyche; that is what we must put a halt to, not those in search of a better life.

Deborah Doane is a writer and consultant on new economics and sustainability. She was previously director of the World Development Movement.