Media Watch: Mail repeats nasty ‘migrant babies’ claim in scare story

Recycling of junk data from Migration Watch betrays a nasty attitude to children of immigrants


The migrant babies are coming. In fact, they’re already here. And there are more on the way. Pretty soon you won’t be able to move without tripping over the offspring of a person born abroad.

This nightmare vision of alien babies on the prowl is sure to strike fear in the hearts of men. But don’t panic! The Tory press is here to expose the truth.

‘Too many babies born to migrants – minister’, yelled the front page of the Times this morning. The Daily Mail went with: ‘Too many babies born to migrant mums, says peer’, while the Daily Express apparently felt an all lower-case headline failed to capture the horror of the news: ‘Foreign mothers having TOO MANY babies in Britain, minister warns’.

So, what’s actually happened? Well, a lifetime member of the House of Lords, Lord Andrew Green of Deddington, who is also chairman of the think tank Migration Watch, asked Lord Michael Bates, a Tory under-secretary at the Home Office, about the ‘impact’ of immigration in the UK.

Here’s his written question:

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their latest assessment of the impact of international migration on the population of the United Kingdom, taking into account the children of immigrants already in the United Kingdom.”

That last part is key. Lord Bates replied that Office for National Statistics data for 2013 found 7.8million people in the UK were born in another country, and  “births in the UK to non-UK born mothers accounted for 25 per cent of all live births. That is why we need to reduce immigration.”

The first thing to notice, which the papers leave out, is that Lord Bates went on to praise Migration Watch, saying it was “widely regarded as a balanced think tank that makes a positive contribution to the debate on immigration in this country.” (It isn’t.)

So why is the Times running a front page story on a question from Migration Watch and an answer from one of its fansThe ONS data cited has been available since August last year! Not exactly ‘news’…

At least the Times and the Mail stories said Lord Green was chairman of Migration Watch. The Express left out any mention of either Lord Green or his think tank..

This issue of ‘migrant’ children has come up before. In November, the Daily Express ran a scare story warning of millions of ‘hidden migrants’ living in Britain, based on research by Migration Watch. The think tank argued people born in the UK who have lived here all their lives should be counted as immigrants if one of their parents was born abroad.

Not surprisingly, this method greatly increases the number of ‘immigrants’ living in the UK, allowing Migration Watch to claim immigration is responsible for 84 per cent of population growth in the UK between 2001 and 2012.

As Sunder Katwala, director of think tank British Futures, said:

Migrants are people born abroad who come to this country. Winston Churchill, Prince Charles, Sajid Javid, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg all had a foreign-born parent. So do the children of Nigel Farage.

“Any proposal that they should all be reclassified as immigrants by the ONS is daft. Since the children of migrants aren’t immigrants, it would distort the immigration statistics to regard them as such.”

Still, this nonsensical and nasty claim was repeated in the Mail‘s coverage of Lord Bates’s comments. It said:

“Last year, a report by Migrationwatch said immigration could be responsible for as much as 84 per cent of the surge in Britain’s population this century.

“The study claimed the true impact of immigration has been ‘substantially understated’ because the Office for National Statistics did not count 1.3million children born to foreign parents as migrants.”

The story also notes, regarding Lord Bates’s answers:

“It is understood to be the first time a government minister has directly suggested a need to reduce the number of babies being born to immigrants.

Now, as you can see, Lord Bates suggested no such thing. He merely spoke in vague terms about ‘reducing immigration’ and preventing abuse of the country’s ‘openness’. The least you can say about this creepy suggestion – made by the Mail, not Lord Bates – is that it’s of a piece with their recycling of junk data from Migration Watch.

It seems for some in the press, the big issues in the run-up to this general election are not the economy, jobs, low pay, or the future of the NHS. No! What we should really be worried about is how many babies people are having.

Or make that, how many babies certain people are having.

Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

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