Based on research by the respected Glasgow Media Group and written by its research director Greg Philo together with Emma Briant and Pauline Donald, Bad News for Refugees is a welcome counter to the culture of misrepresentation and misunderstanding that engulfs the issue of asylum and the plight of refugees in the UK.
Its publication comes at a time when the UK asylum system is facing intense scrutiny. The recent deportation of Isa Muazu following a three-month hunger strike to protest against the rejection of his asylum claim has highlighted the stringent and dehumanising nature of the asylum process and the stigmatisation faced by those that pass through it. Accusations of manipulating the system were levelled at Muazu throughout his ordeal, both in the media and in the high court. The seriousness of the threat to Muazu’s life posed by Islamist militants was buried beneath a generalised discourse of blame, fear and, ultimately, a gross misconception of the motives of asylum seekers.
It is the media discourse surrounding asylum-seekers and refugees and its consequences that Bad News for Refugees is primarily concerned with. As this detailed study reveals, and as the Muazu case typifies, the media portrayal of asylum seekers and refugees is overwhelmingly negatively distorted, conditioned by political imperatives and conflated with the larger topic of economic migration. Such is the perversity and power of this anti-asylum seeker and anti-refugee discourse that it dictates not only public opinion but policymaking, the consequence of which for migrant communities in the UK is often social exclusion, as the final chapter explains.
Although the conclusions reached in Bad News For Refugees may be familiar, its strength lies in the authors’ exhaustive use of a wide range of media sources, from national newspapers to current affairs programmes, in addition to comprehensive interviews with focus groups from migrant communities. The book brings academic authority and coherence to a debate all too often characterised by neither.