Three things the Express leaves out as it ignores asylum seekers' humanity
What would be your first reaction to news the government is cutting support for asylum seekers, shaving the measly sum they now receive down to £36.95 per week?
Presumably you would sympathise with the people directly affected.
Not so the Daily Express, which today welcomes the cuts on its front page.
The story, ‘Asylum seekers cost you £786 million’, adds up all the money allegedly spent on support for asylum seekers over the last five years, (not just last year, as the headline and subhead might imply).
Let’s assume for now this figure is accurate. £786 million is a more impressive figure than £37 a week, and a clever way of presenting the news from the paper’s perspective.
However, the ‘Look at what they get, what about us Brits?’ position dissolves on contact with air, as this figure is dwarfed by the billions the government spends on, well, everyone else, including Daily Express readers.
The story is almost a self-parody. After complaining that basic support for people fleeing war and destitution, including children, is effectively a rip off, the Express then quotes its three favourite sources, Migration Watch, the Taxpayers’ Alliance and UKIP, who all say what they always say about everything.
As horrible as this is, the sins of omission are arguably worse.
1. The Daily Express follows the usual rules by ignoring asylum seekers’ humanity.
Nowhere in the piece do you learn what life is actually like for asylum seekers in Britain. Most asylum seekers are living in poverty and unable to pay for basic requirements like clothing, powdered milk and nappies.
Far from being too generous, Britain is very callous about granting asylum. Despite people drowning in the Mediterranean, the UK has rejected 72 percent of asylum claims this year.
2. The Daily Express fails to explain why the demand for asylum is increasing.
The story closes by noting: ‘The rising care bill reflects the growing numbers of would-be refugees arriving here’, adding that there were more asylum applications in 2014 than in 2010.
What it doesn’t tell you is why. Leaving out the context – what Amnesty International calls the worst refugee crisis since the second world war – is very handy if you want to avoid readers empathising with the victims.
3. The Daily Express fails to quote anyone critical of the cuts for balance.
The selection of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, Migration Watch and UKIP (who Richard Desmond is is bankrolling to the tune of £1 million) tells you all you need to know about the paper’s emphasis.
By contrast, other coverage quoted the Refugee Council, which actually knows (and cares) about asylum seekers.
Why leave them out? Perhaps because the Refugee Council called the cuts ‘shameful’:
“It’s utterly appalling that the government has chosen to exacerbate the suffering of people who are already living in desperate situations.
[…] We suspect the only place that families can live on this amount of money is in the imagination of government ministers.”
Lucky for those government ministers there are papers like the Express to ‘speak up for the concerns of ordinary people’.
Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter
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