Sunday 2 August 2009

Apples and oranges; soldiers and asylum seekers

A rotten Sunday Express 'investigation' decides to cash in on the controversy of payments to injured soldiers and write some more crap about benefits to asylum seekers.

David Jarvis' article compares the two in such a manipulative and misleading way that there is no other reason for it to exist than to increase animosity against asylum seekers.

Take the headline: Cash for asylum seekers but not Our Boys. It makes a statement that is clearly not true - does the Sunday Express really think soldiers get no cash? - but simply wants you to be angry.

But it also immediately introduces this false comparison about payments to soldiers, who are all regarded as heroes, and asylum seekers, who are all regarded as scrounging scum.

Here's what Jarvis claims: there were 2,500 asylum seekers from Afghanistan in 2006-07 and the cost in legal aid, accommodation and food allowances for these was £30 million. (It does not explain where that figure is from but whether it is right or not is not the point; it certainly seems a little off with the figures here from June 2009).

In comparison, there were 560 British soldiers wounded in Afghanistan were paid £5.3 million under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme.

Dividing the total costs by the number of people means each asylum seeker got £12,000 and each wounded soldier received £9,000. Any fool - or Express journo - can work that out.

Therefore, in the Sunday Express' view: Cash for asylum seekers but not Our Boys. The story even begins with the misleading:

The Government has handed out six times more cash to bogus Afghan asylum seekers than to our heroes wounded fighting the Taliban.

Six times more cash? That might just be because there were 2,500 of the former and only 560 of the latter.

More over, it is taking the soldier's compensation payments entirely in isolation. Take Corporal Anthony Duncan, who is mentioned in the story, who received £9,250 after being shot in the leg (and is now back fighting on the frontline in Afghanistan).

A Corporal in the British army receives an annual salary of £25,886.88. Jarvis doesn't mention that. And that's the equivalent of £497 per week, whereas asylum seekers will soon get £35 per week. Add in other costs soldiers receive - food, pension - and it proves the whole exercise of comparing these two things is entirely pointless.

And at the end of the story the Sunday Express admits as much:

The Ministry of Defence said the Armed Forced Compensation Scheme was in its infancy in 2006-07 and some soldiers were compensated out of the War Pension Scheme which did not show up in our figures.

So this 'investigation' hasn't even bothered to find out the total costs of payments to soldiers injured in Afghanistan.

And then, just so you may not see it on the website, the last sentence is curiously buried below a search bar. What could they be hiding with this odd bit of formatting?

It paid out over £33million in 2008-09.

Ah. Indeed according to the Ministry of Defence figures, the total amount paid in 2006/7 under the Scheme was £32.9million for 889 claims. If the Express says 560 of these were for Afghanistan that represents 63%. Yet £5.3million represents 16% of the total compensation paid. It's hardly surprising, but something doesn't seem quite right with the Sunday Express' figures.

But that's not really the most important issue. It's way they have decided to take on the cause of compensation to wounded soldiers, and turn it into another opportunity to outrage its readers about what asylum seekers are getting.

1 comment:

  1. I see the Express is using the old favourite "bogus asylum seekers" again when there is no such thing and which the PCC expressly urges them not to because of that very reason. You're either an asylum seeker or a failed asylum seeker, you can't be "bogus".


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