When you consider the prominence of anti-immigrant sentiment in the British media and how that is reflected amongst the population, a quick look at the tools used by those who propagate such arguments is worthwhile. Emotive and sensationalist language is a constant hallmark of the debate, here’s what happens.
While it is clear that abuses of the system do take place, it is also the case that abuses occur because the system is stacked against people. The rules imposed by government are introduced under the delusion that migration can be stopped, that if only we had the right checks in place only the people of the Government’s choosing would come to live in the UK. It can’t be stopped, it won’t disappear. The racism and intolerance inflamed in futile attempts to govern migration are insidious and dangerous.
Looking at the UKBA website you might happen upon an article entitled Bogus Care Worker Deported. It might conjure up images of an elderly person getting all the wrong medicines or a disabled person left un-bathed and bed ridden for days on end. But reading further in the article there was no reporting of the standard of care this unfortunate woman provided.
Purely due to the fact that her paperwork was not to the liking of the authorities, she becomes a bogus care worker. But for UKBA to use words like ‘bogus’ to describe a living breathing person – you know the sort, one with feelings, friends and relatives – as bogus is emotive derogatory and plainly wrong. One may feel justified in wishing for more neutral language coming from an government body.
She follows in the steps of the peculiar and strange concept of bogus asylum seekers. People seek asylum in the UK but some, in the opinion of the tabloid press don’t deserve asylum. If you have asked for asylum, at what point do you become ‘bogus’? To seek and fail is one thing, to be ‘bogus’ is another.
Similarly, a student from the subcontinent who applies for a place at one of the less reputable colleges in the UK which doesn’t provide the best education and maybe even goes broke during the course they’re attending becomes a bogus student.
Marriages that don’t tick all the boxes which Theresa May has designated become “sham”. Of course, thanks to draconian visa regulations, people seek ways of circumventing them to live where they want to. For some there’s an unpalatable fact; migration happens, it always has and it always will.
Marriages of convenience happen, they have been a feature of royal life for centuries, they also happen for visa reasons – between couples who can’t face a future apart and who’s only option is marriage because the laws wouldn’t let them remain together without such a step. These are genuine marriages, but where the Home Secretary draws her lines between sham and real is not defined.
Refugees and migrants don’t simply arrive in the UK, they flood in or swamp us, alluding to the unstoppable forces of nature, words that conjure up images of destruction and hardship. The Daily Mail describes 2,500 migrants per week coming to the European Union as a flood, but there doesn’t seem to be any media guidelines on when a trickle becomes a surge or when a surge becomes a flood, or a swamping. Certainly 2,500 people watching a football match would be described as a poor attendance, even in the lower divisions in the UK, but the Mail is referring to people seeking refuge in the EU – population more than 500 million.
Immigrants are frequently, nay relentlessly, associated with crime, disease, terrorism, rape and murder. Rarely, if ever, are they reported in association with love, happiness or laughter. Readers should draw their own conclusions from that.
Doing the maths
It’s not just the language of the anti-migrant camp that is suspect, their maths is pretty dodgy as well. In a previous article, JCWI looked at one example of appalling manipulation of figures in The Sun. But perhaps more importantly are the numbers that contextualise people’s perception of immigration. How often is the fact that the country receiving most immigrants in the world is Pakistan? When was the last time the Daily Express reported that, out of countries with a population of more than one million, the UK is twenty second in the list of highest percentage of immigrant population?
The FT reported in February a poll that demonstrates the lack of understanding of immigration in theUK.
“When asked to guess how many people inBritainwere foreign-born, the averageUKresponse was three in 10. When told the estimate by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development was in fact just one in 10, more than two-thirds of UK people thought this was either “not many” (36 per cent) or “a lot but not too many” (31 per cent). Just 30 per cent thought it was “too many”.
It doesn’t take a great deal of research to tell where people’s information about immigration comes from – small newspapers are adept at handing out bite-sized chunks of intolerance to a daily audience. Some are gradually worn down by the relentless tirade which they are subjected to, others appear to pick these ideas up and run with them.
It is to the credit of the population that this prejudice and intolerance does not enjoy universal acceptance, but the popular media wields a power that needs challenging and curtailing.