Migration Observatory: Most common word used to describe immigrants in British press is 'illegal'
08 August 2013
By far the most common descriptor of immigrants in the British press is 'illegal', the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford reported today.
The Observatory undertook a comprehensive analysis of more than 40 million words used by British national newspapers to describe immigration and migrants over the past three years.
You can read its report here.
The Migration in the News study took every article that mentioned 'immigrants', 'migrants', 'asylum seekers' and 'refugees' (and variations on those words) from 20 national daily and Sunday newspapers over the years 2010-2012 to create a 'corpus' of 58,000 articles made up of more than 43 million words.
Computerised linguistic analytics was then used to identify the words most commonly and regularly associated with the various different terms in different types of newspaper.
The study found:
• By far the most common descriptor of IMMIGRANTS across all newspaper types (tabloid, broadsheet and mid-market) was 'ILLEGAL'
• The most common description of ASYLUM SEEKERS across all newspaper types was 'FAILED'
• The most common descriptors for MIGRANTS across mid market and broadsheet newspapers were 'ILLEGAL' (top in mid markets, second in broadsheets) and "ECONOMIC" (top in broadsheets, second in mid- markets) while in tabloids the most common descriptors were 'NON-EU' (top) and 'ILLEGAL' (second)
• There were no consistent descriptors of REFUGEES across all newspaper types, though language tended to focus on escape from conflict or places of origin.
Consistent collocations for the word IMMIGRANT (words that consistently appear within five words of the search terms over the entire 3 year period):
• Tabloids: ILLEGAL; INTO; MILLION; NUMBER; STAY; EU; THOUSANDS; COMING; STOP; SEEKERS; EASTERN; TERRORISTS; WAVE; SUSPECTED; ARRIVED; HOUSES; INFLUX; HOUSING; SHAM
• Mid-market: ILLEGAL; BRITAIN; NUMBER; MANY; EU; AMNESTY; MILLION; EASTERN; THOUSANDS; EUROPE; BENEFITS; SEEKERS; JOBS; INFLUX; NUMBERS; SON; COUNTRIES; NON; ARRIVED; IRISH.
• Broadsheets: ILLEGAL; BRITAIN; SON; CHILDREN; JEWISH; NUMBER; AMNESTY; EUROPEAN; GENERATION; EASTERN; AFRICAN; MILLION; THOUSANDS; BORN; IRISH; RECENT; MUSLIM; JOBS; DAUGHTER; RUSSIAN.
• Notable patterns emerged involving language of numbers (e.g. THOUSANDS), security and legality (e.g. TERRORISTS, SUSPECTED), and, in broadsheet coverage of refugees, vulnerability (CHILD, DESTITUTE).
• Words related to flows of water, such as INFLUX, and less frequently WAVE and FLOOD, were used by all types of newspapers in association with migrants.
Scott Blinder, Acting Director of the Migration Observatory: "Our data show that illegality, the failure of asylum claims and the size of migrant inflows and populations are clear focal points for newspapers of all types."