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Asylum seekers and refugees deserve a fair press says British Red Cross

Text reads Refusing to ignore people in crisis

October 31, 2012
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Asylum seekers and refugees deserve a fair press says British Red Cross

Charity calls for fresh media guidance as polling figures show majority of public believe reporting of refugees and asylum seekers is negative

Asylum seekers and refugees deserve a fair press said the British Red Cross today as it released survey results showing 72 percent of the UK public believe that newspaper reporting about these groups is negative.

The independent YouGov survey found that the words people most associate with media coverage of refugees and asylum seekers are ‘illegal immigrants’ (65%) and ‘scroungers’ (28%). These findings come nine years after the Press Complaints Commission issued guidance seeking to address inaccurate reporting about asylum seekers and refugees.

Adrian Thomas, British Red Cross Head of External Relations said:
“Replace ‘refugee’ with the words ‘black’ or ‘Jewish’ in some recent newspaper headlines and it becomes clear that this group is discriminated against. We applaud journalists who report fairly about asylum seekers and refugees, but are gravely concerned about some of the ongoing negative reporting that ignores existing guidance.”

With the Press Complaints Commission soon to be replaced by a new body to rule on issues around fairness in media coverage under the Leveson Inquiry, the British Red Cross is calling for new guidance to:

- agree that irrelevant details about immigration status should not be used in stories about crime and misbehaviour, as with facts about race  and religion
- allow third-party representations, giving the Red Cross and other organisations a chance to defend refugees and asylum seekers from misleading stories
- actively monitor standards, instead of waiting for complaints from those individually affected and
- ensure that inaccurate terms such as ‘bogus’ or ‘illegal’ are not applied in describing asylum status.

Thomas said:
“The Red Cross has a duty to support those fleeing persecution and as such we worry that repetitive, discriminatory reporting about these individuals could gradually undermine the very institution of asylum.”

In January 2013 the British Red Cross will host the “UK Dispatches Forum on Asylum Seekers and Refugees Reporting” for journalists, asylum seekers and practitioners to discuss these issues.


Notes to editors

• The YouGov Survey had a sample size of 2,573 GB Adults and was conducted from 2 – 4 October 2012 on behalf of the British Red Cross.
• For more information about attending the British Red Cross UK Dispatches Forum on Asylum Seekers and Refugees in January 2013 please contact .
• Research by the Glasgow Media Group, which investigated patterns of negative reporting of these groups in both broadcast and print media, will be released in full at the forum.
• The British Red Cross helps approximately 10,000 asylum seekers and refugees across the UK each year.  In 2010 just under18,000 asylum applications were made in the UK and of these 3,480 were given refugee status.
• The Press Complaints Commission guidance on reporting about asylum seekers and refugees

The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies.
We enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies in their own communities. And when the crisis is over, we help them to recover and move on  with their lives.

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