The 2015 European refugee crisis: media portrayal and framing of refugees and migrants
1.What are the major themes and frames commonly used by the media when covering the issues of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers?
2.Which of these frames and themes were used and prevailed in the media coverage of the European refugee crisis, and specifically in two selected countries, the UK and Germany (on the example of British and German print/online media)?
3.How did the media report about refugees and migrants in terms of gender, age, place of origin, occupation? What was the tone of the media reports? (also focusing on the two above mentioned countries)
4.How did the media coverage in Europe, including Germany and the UK change during 2015 (if at all)? What were the difference in media coverage?
Major themes and frames used by the media
In the year 2014 and 2015, the watched a new humanitarian crisis in the form of refugees. Hundreds and thousands of people were risking their lives in order to enter European Union. These refugees were experienced lack of shelter, food and water; battled through the different problems; endured ill-treatment and indemnity; forged rivers, climbed upon the barbed wires; walked great distances and crossed seas. These refugees were requesting and seeking asylum in the Europe. The massive influx of the refugees into Europe is due to the fact that Syria was experiencing a brutal civil war for around 5 years that has devastated the country and its people. It was that during the civil war in a country, none of its citizens can lead a normal healthy life. The day to day living conditions becomes so toxic that it is hard for the citizens to sustain the crisis. The crisis comes in the form of shortage of food, shelter, and security. No human can sustain for a long period when all the conditions are against him. Thus, the people of Syria took up the escape plan and were trying to get asylum into Europe. When is a situation of crisis arrives, people always want to move where they can feel safe and lead a normal life away from all the chaos. The same was done the Syrian refugees because Europe is the best destination with respect to the wealth, safety and job opportunities and the better living conditions. Europe being in close geographical proximity made it a favourable refugee destination. Whereas, crossing the Mediterranean Sea was the major hurdle. There were media reports in which it is seen that the boats in which the refugees were trying flee drowned leading to the death of the several refugees.
Media reports were generally based on the humanitarian crisis and highlighted on the fleeing of the refugees from Syria and the neighbouring areas. The later media reports were generally based on the problems being faced by the several countries of the European Union. There were reports which suggested that the several countries of the European Union were even not ready to accept the refugees and were even ready to deport the incoming flux of the refugees. This study is based on the major themes and the frames that were commonly used by the media when the media were covering issues on the asylum seekers, migrants and the refugees. The study also focusses on the refugees and the migrants in terms of the occupation, place of birth, age, and gender and how the media reports focussed on them; whether the media coverage in Germany and UK changed in the later part of 2015 and the major difference in the different media coverages.
How the media reported refugees and migrants' gender, age, place of origin, and occupation
Major themes and the frames used by the media- the media used a variety of themes for the purpose of covering the refugee crisis in Europe. For example, the Italian media reports were majorly based on the humanitarian themes in comparison to the Spanish, German and British press. While threat themes which are similar to the cultural threats and the threats to the welfare system are used by the media of Britain, Spain and Italy. The Swedish press was more of a positive in comparison to the other countries, while the press of the United Kingdom was having a negative attitude towards the refugee influx and was for most of the time polarised. Among the countries surveyed, the right-wing media of Britain was more aggressive in the campaigns against the migrants and the refugees. In the wide range of the themes that were used by the media were distinctly different in between the different countries. The percentage of the humanitarian themes presented in the media reports of the different countries are: Italian media showed emphasized 50.6 percent which is the highest in comparison to the other European countries. The Spanish reporting was 32.5 percent, German media was 37.1 percent, British media was 37.3 percent, and Swedish media was 47.1 percent. The humanitarian theme was coded as major theme then the differences came out to be far higher. It was found that about 31.3 percent of the Italian media focussed on the humanitarian themes in comparison to the other countries and it ranged from 9 percent to 13.1 percent. The reason was more likely because the Italian reports were majorly focussed on the events occurring in the Mediterranean region and the reports emphasized on the plight of the migrants and the refugees. Significant differences were also observed in the themes of the threat. The migrants and the refugees were depicted as threats to the national security and the mention of threats in the Italian media was 10.1 percent, in Sweden and Germany it was 2.3 percent, in Britain it was 8.5 percent and in Spain, it was 9.2 percent. The mention and the discussion of the migrants and the refugees as a cultural threat to the cohesion of the community in the British media which was 10.8 percent. This was followed by the newspapers of the following countries Sweden (8.2 percent), Italy (8.1 percent), Spain (7.4 percent), and Germany (5.3 percent). Another major finding is that is mention of the threats to the health and the welfare systems in the United Kingdom. The incidence these threat report was higher in the UK media and it was 18.3 percent and it has alarmingly high in the other countries, especially Spain, Italy, Germany, and Sweden which was 6.7 percent, 7.3 percent, 7.9 percent and 11.4 percent respectively. Negative refugee frames were highly prevalent in the British media which was reporting incidents based on the crime with respect to the migrant and the refugees and the percentage was 8.2 of the overall reports. Whereas in the other European countries like Spain, Italy, Germany and Italy the weight of these reports was 1.7 percent, 2.6 percent, 3.7 percent, and 4.3 percent respectively4. There were themes like the German media were reporting on the subjects like post arrival integration and it's significantly large in comparison to the other media reports in the other countries. The percentage of the news which was more based on the post-arrival integration was 19.7 percent, which was followed by the Sweden, Italy, Spain and United Kingdom and the percentage of the coverage was 12.6 percent, 7.6 percent, 3.7 percent, 2.6 percent respectively. The migratory figures were more reported by the media of the German and the Britain media which was 61 percent and 67.4 percent. Whereas in comparison to Germany and United Kingdom the reports on the migration figures were significantly less in Italy and it was 30.9 percent. Spanish press surprisingly focussed on the political policies and responses which was as high as 69.7 percent. While in comparison to the other European countries the percentages were United Kingdom (35percent), Italy (37percent), Germany (44 percent) and Sweden (51 percent)4.
Tonality of media reports in Germany and the UK
The reason cited for the migration was reported highly by the UK press media and it was the minimum by the Italian and the German media. The majority of the reason cited by the newspapers were that the people are fleeing due to wars. The UK media emphasized more in comparison to the other countries like Italy, Spain, Germany, and Sweden. The reasons that were put forth were the oppressive regimes and it was highly reported by the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Sweden and Italy. The other reason which were also given emphasis are the terrorism or IS, economic pull factors, weak border control. Discussion on the solutions regarding the crisis is noticed most frequent in Italy and Spain, whereas it is the least in Sweden and Germany. How to address the refugee crisis and the how united Europe can solve the problem are the solutions also suggested by the press media. The several suggestions which related to the opening of the refugee centres and safe migration routes must be provided, such mention of suggestion were found in the articles of the Germany, United Kingdom, Sweden and Spain and Italy. The views on the refugees that were seeking asylum, the media houses were suggesting that if the reasons cited by the refugees if were not justified then such refugees must be deported.
There were significant differences in the way the various countries reported on the immigration and asylum. Thus to sum up the whole theme and the frames, Sweden is the only country that remained positive towards the migrants and the refugees. This was significantly supported by the Swedish Democrats and the low proportion of the NGOs. There was a major show of humanitarian themes like the refugees were viewed as threats to the national security. There was also a promotion of more liberal outlook, strong European advocacy. A more humane immigration and asylum was also promoted. In comparison to the other countries in Europe, United Kingdom was exhibiting more negative outlook towards the migrants and the refugees. The newspapers like the Daily Mirror and Guardian were sympathetic towards the refugees. While the right-wing press of United Kingdom was more hostile towards the migrants and the refugees.
The shift of the frames and the themes that prevailed in the media of the Germany and the United Kingdom- The media holds a vital role in the spread of the information that shapes the ideologies and also influences the society. Due to this, the views and the reports of the media have played a major role and at the same time gathered attention. The mainstream newspapers were selected from Germany and United Kingdom. Considering the United Kingdom, the online media like The Telegraph and the Guardian were selected, and the online media of Germany taken are Süddeutsche Zeitung and Die Welt. The four press media agencies used the keywords- asylum seekers, immigrant refugees and the migrants. The keywords used like asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants by the media of these 2 countries are: in United Kingdom it is 71 percent, in Germany it is 36 percent and in Greece it is 62.9 percent. The German media used the word Syrians which more than 6.3 percent in conducted study7. It can be considered that the German media emphasized more on the word Syrians which sounded like a geographical qualifier. The media of United Kingdom focussed on the delicate issue of the child refugees. The British media focussed on the usage of the word refugees that are unaccompanied. This however appeared only in 5 percent of the online media. The Guardian was found to be reporting them on the change in the attitude of David Cameroon (former Prime Minister) and it mentioned the comment of "unaccompanied children" by David Cameroon. He was also found saying in the parliament “We’re already taking child migrants in Europe with a direct family connection to the U.K., and we’ll speed that up”. British Prime Minister came under fire by saying “I don’t think there is an answer that can be achieved simply by taking more and more refugees”. The Guardian also questioned on the change in attitude of the former Prime Minister and whether the change in attitude should be celebrated. Another article of the same newspaper also quoted that Britain is willing to accept the unaccompanied child refugees in to the country from the European Union camps. The acceptance of the unaccompanied child is due to an amendment in the immigration bill that facilitates the children in Europe to come in to Britain. In one news article, The Telegraph wrote that the Syrian children that have left their country in order to reach Europe are socially deprived and are not receiving the proper schooling. The paper also highlighted the lack of the moral and the safe conditions in the camp. Likewise, the Die Welt newspaper also highlighted the muddy camp conditions in a temporary camp in Idomeni. The newspaper highlighted about the tents in which the people were living were inundated with water. The article also highlighted that the Idomni is a place where violence, prostitution and drugs frequently occur. The third most used word in the British media is the Syrian word. In comparison to the British media, the German press media did not describe illegal and the irregular words as frequently like the British media. This does not go well with the British media. In the British media, in about 10 percent of the instances, the word illegal word has been used before the immigrants. Whereas, in 6 percent of the instances, irregular word preceded the immigrant's word in the British media. In comparison to the British media, the German media more emphasized on the unaccompanied children that have been forced to leave their country. Here the children are depicted as the minors and young. The German media Die Welt highlighted that the supporting and assisting the unaccompanied children will be a costly affair for the local German government and there is mention of the municipalities and the German associations. The same newspaper is found to be pressing news on the concern of the children which were living in the worse conditions and these children are completely cut off from the education and schooling. In another news, it has been explicitly mentioned by the Die Welt of the deleterious condition that the children face in the refugee camps. Incident of the child prostitution has also been reported form the refugee camps. Along with the child prostitution, there is mention of the other words like integration, relocation, registration, refoulement. Another important aspect is that the mention of the words like influx and the flows of the human immigrants by the British and German media. It is also found that the personal stories of the victims of the Syrian refugees and the migrants are mentioned in the all the 4 media7.
Changes in media coverage during 2015 in Germany and the UK
To conclude the above the part, it is important to mention that the media of both countries explicitly mentioned about the damage that their countries will undergo due to the humanitarian crisis and the future of the country is at stake. The media reports highlighted the differing of the different countries in Europe. The hate delivered by the leaders of the nations attracted mention in the newspapers of both the countries. The migrants and the refugees were portrayed and depicted as the victims of the deteriorating living condition of Syria due to the civil war, the refugees termed as desperate and helpless. At this period, there was the news of the Turkey-EU agreement and it was the main centre of discussion. The newspapers also mentioned about the tragic condition of the child refugees and the worse living condition that the children were living without education and schooling with several threats.
Media report of the refugees based on the gender, age, place of origin and occupation- According to the media reports, it was found that in the month of June 2015, 27 percent of people that arrived in Europe were found to be children and women. By the month of November, the percentage of the children and the women increased to 40 percent. Finally, by the month of January 2016, the percent of the refugees that move to Europe was 55 percent. Evidence from media report from the newspapers of UK and Germany revealed that the percentage of the children and the women that arrived Greece has reached almost about 59 percent. A clear shift has been noticed in the demographics of the population that arrived in Europe. Even after this, there were reports on the girls and women who were sexually assaulted and exploited. The media reports of Germany and United Kingdom explicitly highlighted the issues of gender violence in the refugee camps. Whereas such issues are not addressed sufficiently by the countries which had the refugee camps. There were fewer efforts put into the places by the government authorities in addressing issues related to the separation of the girl and women from the men in the sleeping areas in Bulgaria. Data collected from the 44 refugee sites in Greece, and 60 percent of the places lack the shower and the toilet facilities for the girls and the women. The media reports highlighted that these sort of unacceptable practices that expose and increase the vulnerabilities of women and the media reports also called the situation to be urgently changed. Girls and the women that travel in groups, such groups which contain 20 to more than 20 people. These provide an additional protection and a sense of security. The media still suggested that the unaccompanied girls faced several types of risks when they undertake the risky travel towards Europe. In the year 2015, there was a total of the 8260 asylum applications from the unaccompanied girls. Out of the 8260 girls, there were 2675 unaccompanied girls under the age of 14.
According to the data compiled by the Eurostat (European Union's Statistical Agency), around 689,000 people applied for asylum in the European countries. Among these 689,000 people, 81 percent of the people were younger than the 35 years of age. Whereas, 55 percent were aged between the 18 to 34 years. By the year's end, more refugees are reported to be arriving in Europe and their number may vary from hundreds to thousands. News reports suggest that around 1.5 million people may seek asylum in the Germany12. The number of children that arrived unaccompanied and also along with the parent sought for asylum. The age of such children range from 0 to 13 years and their number is around 124,785, which is around 18 percent of the share of the asylum seekers. The other young children or minors that are aged around 14 to 17 years are numbered around 56,880 and the share of these young children and the minors is 8.3 percent of the total refugees seeking for the asylum. The refugees aged around 18 to 34 years are numbered 378,655 and is around 55 percent of the overall asylum seekers. 123,785 asylum seekers were aged around 35 to 64 years and they are 18 percent of the overall asylum-seeking population. Whereas, the refugees that are aged above 65 years or more are 3960 in numbers and these asylum seekers are 0.6 percent of the overall refugees that arrived in Europe.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the number of the people which will be globally displaced by the end of 2014 is 59.5 million. This is considered to be record high with respect to the World War II. The highest number of refugees originate from Syria, which surpasses the Afghan refugees and the number of the Syrian refugee counts to 3.9 million. While the number of the Afghan refugee amounts to 2.6 million. According to the media reports, the origin of the refugees stems from Eritrea, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Somalia. The developing countries host the highest number of the refugees. The least developed countries supply around 25 percent of the refugee world over. The media reports emphasize that Jordan, Lebanon and turkey are the neighbouring countries that host the most of the refugees.
The reports of the International Labour Organization, suggests that the majority of the Syrian refugees that took refuge in Europe actually working in their own country. The different types of the occupations with which the refugees were associated are Technicians, professionals and associate professionals, Elementary occupation, metal machinery and trade-related workers, Drivers and the mobile phone operators, craft related trade works, salespersons and demonstrators, building and trade-related works, skilled agricultural workers, and personal service workers. According to the media reports, the majority of the people that worked in a particular type of occupation are the personal service worker and the skilled agricultural worker14. The occupational distribution of the Syrian refugees reveals that the Syrian people are much more inclined towards the low skill works. The occupations with which they were associated are low income and less social protection and job security. Syrian refugees preferred to remain within the same kind of job or occupation that the Syrians preferred before the crisis in Syria. From a survey report, one of the media emphasized that agriculture was the most preferred job by the Syrians and the same is preferred by them when they sought asylum in Europe. This means that a high proportion of the people occupied the low skill and low-income jobs before the crisis and also continued even after the crisis. The occupations of the different regions in Syria varied geographically, the people residing in the South half of Syria were more inclined towards the personal services, while in the Akkar region around 29 percent people were agricultural workers. The majority of the people that were working in the agriculture were divided regionally, which is about 34 percent in Akkar and 36 percent in Beqaa.
The tone of the media with respect to the European Refugee crisis appears to be mildly negative. The tone is generally described as the negative and positive wording used in the media reports. The entire period throughout which the refugee migration took place, the entire time the tone of the newspapers and the media were consistent. Researchers have shown that the refugees, as a negative issue and these refugees are designated as problems instead of posing them as an opportunity of the host countries. Only in few cases, it has been found the media is depicting the asylum seekers and the refugees as benefits. Only a few media reports highlighted and demonstrated the success stories related to the cultural and economic benefits. Furthermore, there are differences in the way different European nations presented the news on the refugee crisis. When the content of the five different European nations (Germany, United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Sweden) are analysed, the media coverage of Sweden is found to be more positive towards the asylum seekers and the refugees. At the same time, the newspapers and the media of United Kingdom were found to be more negative. It has also been found that the more positively the media reports are depicted, the less concerned are the people.
Change in media coverage- Initially there was settlement frame used by the Austrian media which was debated throughout the 2015 refugee crisis. The reports basically highlighted the permanent and the temporary settlement the impact of the refugees on the administrative aspects of the country. Subsequently, the frames that followed are the distribution and reception frame which highlighted the political efforts in order to manage the crisis. The newspapers also focussed on finding the proper in order to solve the refugee issue both at the national and the European level. The newspapers also emphasized on the policy debates and the maximum limit of the refugees to be allowed. The criminality frame is considered to be a frame which associated with illegal ways of transportation of the refugees. The humanitarian frame emphasized on the help that the country rendered voluntarily to the refugees and also called for the help from the general public.
Especially considering the change in media reporting in United Kingdom, there are five different phases through which the crisis can be figured out: i) crisis relating to the Mediterranean migrants, ii) crisis relating to the Calais migrant, iii) crisis relating to Europe's migrant, iv) refugee crisis, v) migrant crisis. The initial reports were based on the news of the sinking of boats in the Mediterranean Sea. The news also focussed on the drowning kids and the people those are trying to reach the beach area. There were headlines like UK backing gunships more than the quota. The subheading spoke about the refugees seeking asylum in Europe and are against the trafficking gangs that are working against the migrants. The phase is the Calais migrant in which emphasized on the reasons due to which people risking their lives in order to claim asylum in the United Kingdom. The news also captured moments in which migrants tried to breach the Eurotunnel security. Europe's migrant crisis focussed on the overall refugee crisis which was occurring all over Europe. There were headlines like ten truths in relation to Europe's crisis with the migrants. There were also subheadings which emphasized on the comments of British prime ministers which spoke of the dangers in association with the migrants that are entering the country. The refugee crisis highlighted on the children that were drowning due to the overfilled boats. The drowned children that were drifted ashore. Migrant crisis again focussed on the terrorist attacks in Paris. The media stories excessively highlighted the terrorist activities during the refugee crisis.
As the refugees started arriving in Germany in the early 2015 and in early 2015, the newspapers rather than critiquing the public policy focussed more on a role as a public educator. Newspapers that were studied for this purpose are the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Sud Deutsche Zeitung, Die Welt, Bild. These mainstream media highlighted the news on the Angela Merkel's decision on opening the door for the refugees. The journalists explicitly used the slogans like Willkommenskultur (which means welcoming culture) in which the citizens are forced to accept the refugees. There is a quote of Angel Merkel saying “Every person who comes is a human being and has the right to be treated as such”. Another quote also mentioned about the responsibility of accepting the refugees by Angela Merkel “It has to be a German responsibility, not to solve problems at the expense of another country, but to solve them jointly with all countries”. The news articles often incorporated the opinions of the journalists and at the same time ignored the opinions of the asylum seekers, experts, normal citizens. The broadcaster and the newspapers came together in particular during the criticism in which hundreds of cologne women were assaulted by the refugees during the new year celebrations. It was rather found that initially the media was found to be were showing the hospitable nature, however, in the later parts the views of the became more sceptical and reserved. Due to the initial perception of welcoming nature, the refugees were more inclined towards moving into Germany.
Thus, from the above discussion, it can be concluded that there is European refugee crisis is in a broad meaning a humanitarian crisis which generally occurred due to the prevailing civil war conditions in Syria. The political regimen in Syria was the main reason for the refugees to migrate to Europe mainland. The civil was a toxic environment for the Syrians to lead a safe and healthy life. The migration of the refugees and the asylum seekers were not viewed evenly by the all the media of the European nations. The study delves into the detail in which perspective the media of several European nations took up the crisis and reported. The study majorly focusses on the media and the newspaper of the United Kingdom and Germany, the various tones and the frames used throughout.
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