Friday, 12 February 2010

Express hopes its readers don't speak French

On 8 February, the Express led with this headline:

The use of 'handed' in that context is deliberately designed to make it sound as if these immigrants are getting preferential treatment. They don't need to apply for jobs - they're just 'handed' them.

And the sub-head includes the emotive 'invasion' which is not a word that has many positive connotations. It almost goes without saying that the BNP had an article based on the Express' story - titled 'British People Put Last' - on its website before the day was out.

But a week before that, the Express had another anti-immigration splash on its front page - one of their completely baseless specials - which deserves more in-depth comment.

It was standard fare, starring the dastardly French, foreigners intent on reaching Britain, and a lot of anonymous quotes instead of facts.

Here's what the Express wanted its readers to believe: the French had arrested 124 illegal immigrants, then let them go, and every one was going to end up in Britain.

The headline was a classic scare. The article, by Nick Fagge, began:

The French set 124 illegal immigrants free yesterday – knowing that last night most would be on their way to Britain.

A few sentences later, he writes:

Last night police sources said the migrants almost all wanted to seek asylum in 'soft-touch' Britain.

How convenient that the anonymous police source uses language commonly used by the Express.

Fagge seems a little confused about who these people were. He (and his paper) calls the group migrants nine times, illegal imigrants twice and asylum seekers twice. An MEP calls them illegal immigrants. The inevitable TaxPayers' Alliance quote refers to them as asylum seekers.

Such sloppy use of language is often a sign the writer isn't really sure of the story, and is a good sign it isn't very reliable. It also ignores the PCC's guidance on use of the correct terminology.

But the most important thing is this: were these people really on their way to Britain? The Express says they were because the Express thinks everyone is. Fagge says:

most of the 124 migrants were expected to be en route to Channel ports – and Britain.

He's backed up by the TaxPayers Alliance (of course):

'It’s shocking that British taxpayers will now have to foot the bill for these asylum seekers...The fact that so many asylum seekers are desperate to get to ­Britain over any other European nation shows we are a soft touch'.

Ah, so the TPA think the same as the French police. How convenient.

Then the Express quotes an organisation called Cimade:

A refugee charity admitted the UK is the 'obvious' destination because Britain has an obligation to provide for asylum-seekers, while France does not.

It is curious - not to say misleading - of the Express to suggest France doesn't have an 'obligation' to asylum seekers when that is clearly not the case. Fagge continues:

Cimade, a refugees charity, said the Corsican-drop migrants were 'free to travel where they like'.

A spokesman added: 'All look healthy and are well dressed for the European winter.'

Curiously, when the Mail rushed a copycat version of the Express' story onto its website, they merged all the quotes attributed to Cimade:

'They are free to travel where they like, with Britain an obvious choice for a new life. All look healthy and are well-dressed for the European winter,' a Cimade spokesman said.

There's just one slight problem with that: Cimade's website tells a slightly different story. In their news item, they say:

Surtout, ces réfugiés, qui ont manifesté leur volonté de demander l'asile en France auraient dû pouvoir accéder immédiatement à la procédure normale de demande d'asile et non pas faire l’objet d’une quelconque privation de liberté.

Which, as translated by Nicolas Chinardet, says:

Above all, these refugees, who have expressed a desire to request asylum in France, should have immediately been given access to the normal procedure for asylum application and not been subjected to any deprivation of liberty.

So whereas the Express and Mail claim a Cimade spokesman said Britain was an 'obvious' choice for these people, Cimade's website say they had:

expressed a desire to request asylum in France.

This was also reported by Midi Libre and Ouest France and by AFP who said - on 27 January - that one third of the group had already claimed asylum in France.

At first, Le Figaro suggested, via police sources, they might be looking for work in Sweden or Norway, and the Times of Malta reported:

They also told police they had wanted to go to Scandinavia, Ajaccio's state prosecutor Thomas Pison said.

Funny, isn't it, how the police and Cimade seem to tell the Express one thing and everyone else something different. Something that's not about Britain.

Indeed, none of AFP, Reuters, Al Jazeera, Deutsche Welle, France 24 or any other media outlet seem to mention Britain at all.

Just the Express and the Mail.


  1. Funny also how in these stories the press never concentrates on the business owners (a stong term in many cases I know) who are the ones actually giving immigrants jobs. No mention that it is business that takes people on with no push from the government. No mention especially about why these business owners take immigrants on - because they can get away with treating these workers to appaling pay and conditions.

    No mention because these same business owners are the ones these papers are trying to peddle crap to in part. Because its these employers (who are laughing all the way to the bank) who then get to peddle on the myth that we are flooded with immigrants in the first place.

    People are crazy to think that the right-wing/BNP would halt immigration. They'd still bring in all these people to prop up business es with cheap labour but remove even the few rights people have currently.

  2. Am I the only one who thinks that being a 'soft touch' on asylum seekers is a good thing?

    Oh, but I forgot. The Express cannot bring itself to differentiate between immigrants, illegal immigrants and asylum seekers. So being a soft touch on asylum seekers would to them mean throwing open the borders to every 'feckless scrounger' on the planet.


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