Press coverage of migration crisis in Europe: a call for collaborative action

visit-of-dimitris-avramopoulos-eu-commissioner

Dimitris Avramopoulos, Member of the EC in charge of Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, travelled to Lesbos to visit the refugee camp of Karatepe municipality. Date: 18/01/2017 Reference: P-033444/00-15 Location: Lesbos. © European Union , 2017 / Source: EC – Audiovisual Service / Photo: Nikolia Apostolou.

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Mr Behrouz Nezafat. The writer an MSc. Public Health student at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the IFMSA Human Rights and Peace co-regional assistant for Europe. He is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA). However, the opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

As the year 2016 draws to a close, the United National Higher Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) statistics shows a decrease in arrivals by sea to Europe of 361,018 from the previous figure of 1,015,078 (2015) [1]. This dramatic decrease is a result of the deal between the European Union and Turkey. A deal, under which Turkish government agreed to take steps to prevent refugees from reaching Greece and the Balkans region.

The European Commission proposed the resettlement of 160,000 refugees, among European countries. [2] Sadly, only 5% of this target has been met as of December 2016, [3] and over 57,000 people are stranded in temporary camps in Greece, living in conditions far from international humanitarian standards. [4]

Although from the statistics discussed, it does not look like Europe is placing a huge effort on helping the situation of refugees. Instead, far-right wing nationalism sentiment has grown in the past years across the region. Movements like the Sweden Democrat, the National Front in France, the Austrian Freedom Party and other voices on the far right are calling for their open countries to close up and turn inward, encouraging voters to fear migrants taking jobs, Muslims threatening culture and security and political correctness frightening freedom of speech. However, what is driving this surge to the far right from the electorate?

The media plays a central role in politics and it has a massive influence on voters, as for many media outlets are the only source of information. Overall, the press coverage of the refugee and migrant crisis in the EU has been far from aiming to convince countries to do more to help. Many outlets have been unsympathetic, portraying refugees as a threat to the welfare system and using inaccurate terms such as ‘illegal immigrant’ to describe them. [5]

A report from December 2015 by UNHCR, concluded that the Swedish press was the most positive towards refugees and migrants, while coverage in the United Kingdom was the most negative. [6] In addition, there is also major differences between countries in terms of the sources used, ranging from politicians and citizens to NGOs, depending on the sentiment that they wanted to communicate.

As the youth of Europe we have a responsibility that we must accomplish. We must make sure we build countries that reflect our ideals, and the principles that funded the European Union. Ensuring the media portrays accurate information, using the correct language, is of vital importance for the future of our region.

This is a call to action to help improve the current climate towards migration in Europe, we can use social media and other platforms to ensure accurate information is portrayed, as well as reporting articles and confronting platforms that portray biased information.

Unfortunately, throughout Europe, media outlets have been communicating and fuelling anti-refugee sentiment through a negative tone and inaccurate language. As the leaders of tomorrow we should take the appropriate steps in ensuring we can provide accurate information on the situation, as well as reporting press coverage portraying a negative and inaccurate picture.

About the author

Behrouz Nezafat is currently an MSc. Public Health student at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the IFMSA Human Rights and Peace co-regional assistant for Europe. His main area of interest is in migration and health, as well as social integration of populations to a new environment and health system strengthening.

References:

[1] UNHCR, Refugee/Migrants Response – Mediterranean, http://data.unhcr.org/mediterranean/regional.php (Accessed December 2016)

[2] European Commission (2015), Refugee Crisis Fact Sheet.

[3] European Commission (2016)

[4] International Rescue Committee (2016), Idomeni: The IRC concerned about humanitarian standards at some of the new sites.

[5] Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (2014), ‘Words Matter’ Campaign

[6] UNHCR (2015), Press Coverage of the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in the EU: A Content Analysis of Five European Countries, Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies

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