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‘Gravely concerned’ Red Cross calls for refugees and asylum seekers to get ‘fair press’

By William Turvill

The British Red Cross has said it is “gravely concerned” by newspaper coverage of refugees and asylum seekers. 

The warning comes after a YouGov poll showed that 72 per cent of the UK public believe newspaper reports on these groups is negative. It showed that the words most people associate with media reports on refugees and asylum seekers are “illegal immigrants” and “scroungers”.

Adrian Thomas, head of external relations at British Red Cross, 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.”

The findings come nine years after the Press Complains Commission issued guidance addressing inaccurate reporting on the subject.

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The charity wants whichever body replaces the Press Complaints Commission to ensure “irrelevant details about immigration status” are dropped from stories about crime and misbehaviour and to ensure that “inaccurate terms such as ‘bogus’ or ‘illegal’” are not used to describe asylum status.

British Red Cross also wants the new body to “actively monitor” standards, rather than waiting for complaints. In addition, it says third-party representations should be allowed, to defend refugees and asylum seekers from misleading stories.

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.”

The charity is hosting the UK Dispatches Forum on Asylum Seekers and Refugees Reporting, an event designed for journalists, asylum seekers and practitioners.

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