The Daily Mail regularly dedicates its front pages, centre spreads and opinion columns to stories and incidents negatively portraying refugees. Taking a look at articles from the newspaper inflammatory headlines such as: ‘Scottish terror suspects are asylum seekers2’, ‘(United Kingdom): A rare refuge for bargain hunters’3 and ‘Rising tide of the ‘non returnables’4 are found in rather great abundance.
In the first headline we notice the manner by which it is proposed by the Daily Mail that all asylum seekers are terrorists, further below it is hoped to investigate the manner by which certain newspapers have connected the ‘threat of terrorism’ to the asylum issue, but for the present time let us draw our attention to the second and third headlines above, we can clearly see that The Daily Mail has used words with derogative connotations in describing asylum seekers. In a general sweeping manner asylum seekers are classed as ‘bargain hunters’, clearly it can be understood that not all asylum seekers are fleeing their countries of origin for the mere purpose of ‘looking for a bargain’.
In one article The Daily Mail makes the proposition that asylum seekers are depending ‘on begging, illegal working or crime5’ such negative statements run contrary to the fact that many well to do business men, politicians and academics also flee their respective countries in fear of political persecution. Of course there will be a percentage who may be coming to the shores of the UK with the aim of ‘cashing in’ but these, one would assume would be a minority. Overtly the bad qualities of some asylum seekers have been emphasized in such headlines. Such behaviour in constructing headlines clearly underlines the sense of ‘the otherness’ that is so inherent in racist discourse, this is most particular to the manner by which Van Dijk explains ‘them and us’, a concept which he has articulated in the ‘ideological square’.
On the other hand glancing through headlines in The Mirror we find headlines such as: ‘My refugee husband took our baby boy from his bed6’, the story graphically describes the court hearing of a Irish mother whose husband, a Somalian refugee, has been accused of the murder of their baby boy. Court proceedings were still underway and the report was merely a factual presentation of the court hearings for that day. Now such an occurrence where in which parents or even family friends abuse or kill children in present times is a regular occurrence.
Causes for such people to behave in such a manner can be many, but in the story there is a clear implication that after the marriage the father had in the words of The Mirror ‘fallen apart’7, indicating that perhaps pass incidents may have traumatised the father leading to a mental illness. Nevertheless the headline clearly implies the fact that the father was a ‘refugee’ bringing about an understanding that the cause of such behaviour was the fathers’ asylum status. This is a clear example that in this particular report The Mirror has linked the behaviour of a man charged with murder to his refugee status. Hence it could be assumed that The Mirror, like its counterpart The Daily Mail has undertaken a racist attitude in the portrayal of news regarding asylum seekers.
But glancing at other various headlines and the articles prevalent regarding asylum seekers in both newspapers one would be able to say that The Daily Mail is saturated with derogative headlines and stories which vilify and demonise asylum seekers in general. On the other hand the left wing Mirror is not as guilty of this but rather much more partial. An article titled: ‘I’m proud to fight asylum witch-hunt8 is clearly indicative of the attitude of The Mirror in general. We find the author in effect saying that it is ‘totally illogical’ that all asylum seekers are witch-hunted and locked up due to the arrest of a ‘couple of Algerians’ suspected of terrorism.
Rather the author describes many of the positive prospects of bringing in asylum seekers such as introduction of skilled labour, a new labour force and the payment of taxes which would benefit the economy. Here we clearly see that the author has projected the qualities of the ‘other’ and unlike other newspapers has not sidelined positive aspects. It could be said that the views of the dominant has been presented together with the views of the subordinate which obviously would drive the writer, the article and the paper in general, away from such allegations of undertaking a racist attitude in the reporting of news. On the contrary The Daily Mail, as can be seen from the above examples, has sidelined the better qualities of the sub-ordinate group and in turn behaved in a racist manner.
On the 6th of February both The Daily Mail and The Mirror ran articles regarding an OFSTED report of how badly behaved pupils are shattering government plans to improve state run education in the UK. In the Mirror, children of asylum seekers are merely referred to on only one occasion, a few paragraphs down, in the words of the Mirror: ‘Schools with a high proportion of asylum-seekers are particularly prone to high pupil turnovers and the education of thousands of pupils is affected as a result, says the report.9’ On the other hand The Daily Mail begins the exact same story from a different perspective, the headline to the story reads: ‘Asylum pupils ‘disrupt lessons for thousands10’.
When we compare both reports we find that the original OFSTED report draws attention in a passive manner to the fact that there are many factors which cause pupils to be rude and uncooperative at schools and it has been observed that this is the case in schools with high levels of children from parents who are asylum-seekers. On the other hand The Daily Mail makes statements such as ‘the huge influx of asylum seeker children is threatening the education of tens of thousands of pupils’.
This is a clear example of how the negative aspect of a certain subordinate group has been magnified with zero reference to the positive aspects of asylum seekers contribution in the last hundred years within the UK. It could be assumed that this manner of reporting is indicative of the general manner of coverage by both papers, in that the attitude of The Daily Mail has been racist and on the other hand the left wing Mirror has been fair and unbiased.
In a covert manner it can be seen that the majority of information which is given in The Daily Mail, regarding asylum seekers, is most definitely representative of, as Bell says, the Dominant view. Information regarding the dominated group is scarcely given in positive light; it could be considered that presenting the dominant view in this manner is indicative of the hegemonic manner by which news is reported.
Linking refugees with terrorism
Newspapers in general have been resorting to stereotypes and notably during the period where in which articles for this paper were investigated it was noticed that The Daily Mail, in particular, together with many of its right wing neo-conservative papers from the tabloids and quality broadsheets not only took a stance against refugees but also pushed to make a direct link between the asylum issue and terrorism.
The Mirror on the other hand is found to ensure that the issue of asylum seekers and terrorism is kept apart, in an article on the 12th of January an article titled ‘MI5 lost poison11’, the article in an in-depth manner discussed the way by which Algerians living in London were charged with producing chemical weapons, continuing on the article spoke regarding how these men thought to be terrorists were also being investigated by the French authorities. It should be noted that The Mirror was most careful in ensuring that these alleged terrorists are not solely referred to by their ethnicities, nor is their asylum status discussed. It could be assumed this is the general attitude undertaken by The Mirror in keeping the two issues aloof in their reporting.
On the other hand when we refer to not just the one article but to a wide range of articles from The Daily Mail we notice that the two issues of asylum seekers and terrorism are very intimately interwoven. In an article ran on the 11th of January12 we see the proposition regarding four men arrested ‘under the Terrorism Act’ that they ‘had been living there at taxpayers’ expense after claiming political asylum’.
In an article published on the 16th of January13 particular reference was made towards the ethnicity of a group of refugees who happened to be Algerian. Apparently in 1995 ‘Algerians were allowed in to the country with the minimum of checks.’ Continuing on the article then makes a general sweeping statement saying, ‘Algerians were involved in a bombing campaign in France’. Further on with regards to the UK the article says that Britain has been ‘providing political asylum’ and has been ‘a safe haven to Algerians linked to terrorism’.
A point of interest that Algerian people, Algerian refugees, bombs, asylum seekers and terrorism have been professionally interwoven in a manner where by it would be assumed that all groups involved i.e. Algerians and asylum seekers are terrorists, thus in turn The Daily Mail has demonised an entire community. This is representative of many of the articles within The Daily Mail and the racist attitude by which news is covered
Particular reference is made to the bombing of the Paris metro in 1995 by stating that: ‘Algerians were involved in a bombing campaign in France’, further down it is particularly implied that Algerians were behind a series of bomb explosions ‘on the streets of Paris and Lyon that killed 12 in 1995’. One could say that this is no more accurate than saying the Irish, as opposed to the IRA, bombed the Docklands in 1996 or the Baltic Exchange in 1992. Rather than implying all Algerians to be behind the bombing campaign of 1995 it would be more suitable and not so racist if The Daily Mail had endeavoured to speak about the organisations such as the GIA or the FIS who were apparently alleged to have undertaken the bombing attack.
With regards to the presence of the British Algerian community in many articles it is implied that Algerians arrived to the UK after the French began a large scale ‘crack down’ on North African militants in France.14 Regarding the UK in another article the writer comments, ‘for more than a decade they (the French authorities) have been accusing Britain of ignoring their warnings and providing political asylum and a safe haven to Algerians linked to terrorism.’15
Such comments make many implications, to begin with the British Government and the British law is shown to be lax in comparison to the French legal system, secondly it is implied that the British legal system is such a soft target that ‘terrorist, bogus asylum seekers’ from Algerian backgrounds are en-masse relocating in the UK. Lastly it can also be noticed that a serious implication is again being made that Algerians merely moved to the UK due to persecution from French authorities.
This is the type of implication used by Nazis in demonising Jewish communities in Europe by saying persecution led the Jewish people to Europe. Through out the back issues of The Daily Mail it can be seen that a rather strong connection is made between Algerians and asylum seekers, implications of Algerians being illegal immigrants and terrorists is rather noticeable. This style of covert bias coverage of news where in which an entire people are vilified is definitely an example of racism so evident in The Daily Mail.