Thursday, 14 January 2010

Refugee Council research - ignored and misrepresented

The Refugee Council has published a new report on asylum seekers, written by Dr Heaven Crawley at Swansea University.

The report, 'Chance or Choice: Understanding why asylum seekers come to the UK’, concludes:

  • Over two thirds did not choose to come to the UK.
  • Most only discovered they were going to the UK after leaving their country of origin.
  • The primary objective for all those interviewed was reaching a place of safety.
  • Around three quarters had no knowledge of welfare benefits and support before coming to the UK – most had no expectation they would be given financial support.
  • 90% were working in their country of origin and very few were aware they would not be allowed to work when they arrived in the UK.

Those findings directly challenge several anti-immigrant tabloid myths so it's not surprising that neither the Mail or Sun are covering the report at all.

Surprisingly, the Express website not only has an article on the findings, but it's a sympathetic one too:

It would be shocking if that headline were to appear in the print edition tomorrow because that's not the Richard Desmond line on immigration at all.

As is clear from the Daily Star:

The use of 'illegal immigrants' in the headline to a story about asylum seekers is a direct flouting of the PCC guidance on Refugees and Asylum Seekers which states:

The Commission is concerned that editors should ensure that their journalists covering these issues are mindful of the problems that can occur and take care to avoid misleading or distorted terminology.

But to what does that headline refer? They put the word 'useless' in quote marks, yet this word does not appear to be used in the report, the summary or the press release. Or, indeed, in their own story.

The actual word that is used about the asylum laws is 'barbaric'. But the Star isn't likely to lead with that, is it?

The one slight downside to the report is the small sample. The findings are based on interviews with 43 refugees and asylum seekers. Nonetheless, that is still actual first-hand evidence. It's not like someone just plucking numbers out the air.

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