“Illegal Immigrants” still Present in some British Newspapers

Published: 14 August 2013

Country: UK

immigrants uk pressThe Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford has found that the most common word used by British newspapers to describe immigration and migrants was ‘illegal’. The authors of a study Migration in the News analysed more than 40 million words used by broadsheet, mid-market and tabloid newspapers over in the past three years.

Researchers concluded that mid-market newspapers, such as the Daily Mail and Daily Express, were more likely to use the term ‘illegal’ than tabloids or broadsheets, reports the Guardian. They used the word “illegal” in 10% of their published stories about migration.

The expression “illegal immigrant” has been controversial. Many people think it’s an offensive way to label immigrants and it “dehumanises the person it seeks to describe”.

Researchers described as “striking” their finding that Eastern Europe and the European Union have emerged as the main geographic reference point in stories about immigrants and migrants, particularly in tabloids such as the Sun and Daily Mirror, reports the Guardian.

The newspaper used an example from the Daily Mail to illustrate how the tabloids report on immigration. This article is one of the many Daily Mail stories which use the expression “illegal immigrants”. This term carries a negative connotation: immigrants are seen as a “burden” for the country. Many people are protesting against it because no human is illegal.

The Huffington Post reported that the immigration coverage was dominated by the word “illegal”, which contributes to spreading a very negative image of immigrants.

The world’s biggest newsgathering agency Associated Press banned the term ‘illegal immigrant’ from their stylebook in April 2013. “Being called ‘illegal’ without trail or conviction is inaccurate and offensive”, wrote Aidan White for the Media Diversity Institute (MDI) blog reviewing the AP’s decision to ban the expression “illegal immigrant”.

The study by the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford also points out that asylum seekers are often described in newspapers as “failed”, while refugees are represented as “fleeing” an area. Immigrants are generally depicted as sneaky, claiming benefits and as a cause for stirring up conflicts, therefore spreading a negative image about them.

Dr Scott Blinder, Acting Director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said, “Immigration is a very prominent issue in British national newspapers, and these media outlets play a major role in the nation’s political dialogue, so it is very important to have a comprehensive picture of this discussion.

Related articles:

AP Stylebook marks its 60th Anniversary with Important Changes

AP leads as Media Finally Ditch ‘Illegal’ Label for Migration

New York Times Keeps ‘Illegal Immigrant’