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Migrants and the media: examining migrant voices in Britain’s political debate


Open Society Foundations and Coventry University



Project team

Professor Heaven Crawley and Simon McMahon

Project objectives

Immigration and its implications have long been among the most significant concerns of the British public, dominating the agendas of political parties and covered the pages of the print media. However, since the 2010 General Election a number of organisations have been established with the explicit objective of providing opportunities for migrant communities to engage with the media and contribute to the public and political debate. This project explored the engagement and representation of these migrant voices within the 2015 pre-election debate, asking how the voices and experiences of migrants were represented in media reporting and whether migrants themselves were able to have a say.

Research impact

This project contributes to a growing literature on how best to establish a balanced media debate on migration. The research found that in order for the migration debate to be more balanced and reflect the lived reality of migrants in Britain, it must include a wider range of evidence, views and perspectives. We found that migrants are only referenced in 15% of newspaper articles on migration and that 85% of articles do not have a migrant perspective. We also found evidence that migrant voices are more likely to be included in stories which tend towards more positive, sympathetic or humanising portrayals of migration and a majority of these presented the migrant as a victim in need of sympathy and support. A narrow view of migrants as victims may reinforce dominant stereotypes in ways that are not helpful in the longer term.

The project was launched at a roundtable debate hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration in the Houses of Parliament in February 2016. It was also covered by The Guardian.

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