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Rubbing Salt in the Wounds - A study of media, power and immigration

Masterarbeit 2003 90 Seiten

Sozialpädagogik / Sozialarbeit



1 Problem, Hypothesis and Methods
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Development of Problem
1.3 Research Methods

2 Reality and Agendas: the UK, Immigration, and the Media
2.1 The Reality of Asylum/Immigration
2.1.1 Some Facts and Figures regarding the UK
2.1.2 The UK compared with the Rest of the World
2.1.3 Situation in Refugee Sending Countries
2.1.4 Summary
2.2 Agenda of U.K. Political Elites with regard to Asylum and Immigration
2.2.1 Historical Record in the UK
2.2.2 Racism, Nationalism and Scapegoating
2.2.3 Globalisation
2.2.4 Summary
2.3 Elite Political Power and the Media: The Propaganda Model
2.3.1 A Brief Overview of the Propaganda Model
2.3.2 Criticisms of the Propaganda Model
2.3.3 The Five Filters and the UK Media: A Structural Analysis
2.3.4 Summary

3 The Performance of Mainstream Media: A Case Study
3.1 Summary of method
3.2 Quantitative Results
3.2.1 Themes
3.2.2 Opinion Groups
3.3 Analysis of data collected
3.3.1 Themes
3.3.2 Opinion Groups
3.4 Summary

4 Alternatives/Challenges to Mainstream Media
4.1 Medialens
4.2 The RAM Project
4.3 ZNet
4.4 Glasgow Media Group
4.5 Summary

5 Conclusion

6 References
6.1 Publications
6.2 Internet Websites / Sources

1 Problem, Hypothesis and Methods

1.1 Introduction

The movement of peoples across borders and the controlling of those borders form vital themes in the contemporary world. The International Organisation for Migration estimated in 2000 that there were 150 million people in the world who fulfilled the category of being ‘foreign born.’[1] Of these, 12 million were estimated to be holding refugee status, whilst 900,000 fell under the category of asylum seekers. In western European countries such as the UK, political decisions relating to immigration and asylum form a major policy area, often playing a large, and sometimes decisive, role in government manifestos and parliamentary pledges.

Social scientists approaching the issue of immigration and asylum face a diverse platform of interrelated research topics, reflecting the complexity of global relations in contemporary society. These topics include nationalism, sovereignty, racism, human rights, arms sales, war, health, economic policy and international responsibility.

The aim of this thesis is to explore the potential limitations placed on communicating these themes to the general populace of the UK, weaving various social science disciplines together in order to study the interplay of mass media, power and immigration.

This thesis takes its starting point from commonly held assumptions regarding democracy in the UK. These involve the understanding that political parties present their goals and methods of governing the country to the people who then vote in periodic elections to give one party a governing mandate. The concept naturally follows that the wishes of the majority of the UK population should prevail. It can therefore be seen as imperative in order to preserve a just and democratic governing system that electoral decisions made by the population are based on information that is as accurate, proportionate and rational as possible. This information currently arrives primarily from the UK mass media. A serious problem would ensue if the mass media’s communication of this information became fundamentally biased, misrepresentative or disproportionate by following the agenda of groups that did not represent the majority population’s beliefs and values. In this case electoral decisions would have the potential to be weakened to the detriment of social justice, providing a clear obstacle to the democratic goals that are publicly stated by all of the main UK political parties.

Along with other issues that fundamentally affect the human rights of individuals, the accurate reporting of news and opinion relating to asylum and immigration can help elicit social responses and political policies that have major human consequences. The UK mass media, in its role as the country’s primary system of news communication, is therefore placed in a powerful position to effect and influence the lives of those caught up in the politics of this social issue. An analysis of exactly how and why certain information concerning asylum and immigration is presented on a daily basis to the UK public would appear to be an important and relevant research area within this field.

1.2 Development of Problem

The problem addressed by this thesis lies in the potential structural flaws that exist in the mass media news outlets operating in the UK. It will explore the premise that these flaws have wide-ranging effects on news discourse, substantially limiting the themes that emerge with regard to asylum and immigration.

There are various watchdogs operating within the UK today that, to some extent, fulfil the purpose of monitoring the mass media’s performance on asylum and immigration. One example, The RAM Project[2], a subsidiary of the PressWise Trust, was set up for just this purpose, analysing the factual basis of press stories and highlighting issues that rarely make the media. For organisations involved in refugee support work, a comment on media performance often plays a role in publicity literature. The Refugee Council and Oxfam[3] both for example display pages on their websites dispelling popular myths found in the tabloid and right-leaning daily newspapers. Monitoring of this kind tends to take the form of counter information and statistics, challenging what are seen as periodic mistakes that occur almost exclusively in the right-leaning press through ignorance, malice or popular racism. To a certain extent such reasoning has a measure of truth but none of these groups have explored in any depth the concept of an underpinning structural theory to understand why such myths regularly occur. It is precisely this direction of analysis that informs this thesis.

For this purpose the media theories of Herman and Chomsky[4] form a central theoretical background, providing a model of structural constraints that will be applied to the UK press media and then tested empirically in the area of asylum and immigration. In the process, a range of contemporary media analysis will also be referenced, most notably the work of the Glasgow Media Group[5], Curran and Seaton’s expansive study of media power relations within the UK[6], and Franklin’s research connecting the themes of media, democracy and politics.[7]

1.3 Research Methods

The first part of this thesis (Chapter 2) will involve secondary data research. Empirical statistics from recognized international governmental and non-governmental bodies will inform the initial introduction to the main facts of asylum and immigration with regard to the UK (2.1) and a literature research will be used both to analyse the agenda of elite UK interests (2.2) and to introduce the media theories that will be explored by this thesis (2.3).

The second part of this thesis (Chapter 3) will involve a documentary research. Using a method of content analysis similar to that employed by Herman and Chomsky[8] to test their study of the US media and power interests, and drawing also on the techniques employed by the Glasgow Media Group in analysing the UK media’s reporting of the Falklands conflict[9], this thesis will make a case study involving the output of three UK newspapers. The subsequent commentary will involve both quantitative and qualitative aspects of the study.

The final part of this thesis (Chapter 4) returns to a literature research, providing a cross section of contemporary groups involved in challenging the content of the mass media. The majority of this analysis involves the medium of the Internet reflecting the growth in this area of communications in the UK.

2 Reality and Agendas: the UK, Immigration, and the Media

2.1 The Reality of Asylum/Immigration

The purpose here is not to provide a definitive statistical account of asylum and immigration in the UK and abroad, but to present a general overview in order to ascertain what themes emerge. The background questions being asked in this section are: What would news outlets in the UK be anticipated to discuss and report given these facts? What would be the pertinent issues that would be expected to feature strongly in a reasonable and balanced analysis? What would be of less importance?

Statistics relating to asylum and immigration are not an exact science, with different methodologies being used by different agencies.[10] However for the purposes of this thesis the following recognized statistical sources are used and deemed sufficient in order to provide a general perspective and comparative introduction to the issue:

- For international statistics relating to migration: The World Migration Report 2000, a co-published study of the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) and United Nations (UN).
- For international statistics relating to refugees and asylum seekers: The United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR).
- For European statistics relating to refugees and asylum: The European Council on Refugees and Exile (ECRE).
- For UK statistics relating to refugees and asylum: The Home Office Research and Development Statistics Directorate and in particular their 2002 report, “Asylum Statistics”.
- For UK and European population statistics, a combination of the UK Office for National Statistics, The United Nation’s 2002 report, “World Population Aging” and the European Statistical Office of the European Commission (Eurostats).

Ascertaining the actual numbers of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers who enter and live in the UK and the relative effect this has on population growth would seem a natural point of departure for this analysis. This is followed by a global comparison of the UK’s refugee intake and a final summary of the social and political conditions in countries where most of the UK’s asylum applicants originate.

2.1.1 Some Facts and Figures regarding the UK

The first observation to be made from researching the UK figures, concerns the very small size of the percentages involved when comparing immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers with the relative population of England, Scotland and Wales.

In 1997 there were 58,185,000 people residing in the UK, of whom 2,121,000 were estimated to be non-nationals (foreign born).[11] This figure constituted 3.6% of the overall population, and naturally includes all those who have long since received citizenship. Considering the UK’s colonial history, this percentage is not particularly high, especially when compared with the rest of the European Union. In a table of EU member states the UK is in ninth position out of fifteen, with Germany (8.9%), Belgium (8.7%), Austria (6.6%) and France (6.3%) all holding substantially greater proportions of foreign-born residents.[12]

A small segment of this group, those holding refugees status in the UK under the 1951 Geneva Convention, were estimated in 2001 to add up to 169,370; 0.3% of the 2001 population figures.[13]

In 2001, 71,365 applications were made for political asylum in the UK. If all of these applications had been successful they would have represented 0.1% of the country’s population. However, in the same year only 11,180 individuals were granted full political asylum in the UK, a final acceptance level that formed 0.02% of the overall UK population.[14] Put in other terms, in 2001 the ratio of UK inhabitants to successful asylum applicants was 5,262:1.

A closer look at the UK population figures demonstrates the relatively low significance of immigration in determining growth within the country. Between 1981 and 2001 the population increased by 4.4%, reflecting the decreasing growth trend throughout Europe.[15] The UK National Statistics recorded the following reasons in their analysis:

“The growth in the population of the UK is mainly due to net natural change (more births than deaths). Natural change accounted for over 80 per cent of the total population change between 1981 and 2001.”[16]

Taking a longer-term perspective, the UK population growth actually reflects a downward turn, particularly in the working population, which could potentially cause serious long-term economic and social consequences. The UN recognised this aging problem as part of a European pattern, and published a statistical report in 2002 to ascertain the extent of demographic shift within the EU. In terms of the UK, overall population growth was predicted to be in reverse by 2050 with those over 60 years old rising to a 34% proportion (compared with 15.5% in 1950).[17]

The UN’s discoveries led it to conclude that Europe with its aging population base required some form of compensation effect and replacement immigration was pinpointed as the solution to this problem. The response of the European Union was given in the 2000 European Commission’s report on Community Immigration Policy. It did not reject the findings, but in fact went further in suggesting that immigration has a negligible effect on long-term population change:

“The Commission believes that, while increased immigration itself cannot be considered in the long term as an effective way to offset demographic changes, since migrants once settled tend to adopt the fertility patterns of the host country, it could, in the short term, be an important element in population growth.”[18]

Such research and the subsequent statements of the EU lend support to the view of academics such as Dummet that “the demographic effects of immigration are generally benign.”[19] The importance of these findings to any analysis of UK immigration policy is self-evident.

2.1.2 The UK compared with the Rest of the World

Although the figure of 150 million international migrants appears initially to be a substantial one, it is important that some perspective remains. As the IOM stated in their World Migration Report:

“[…] fewer than 3 per cent of the world’s population have been living outside their home countries for a year or longer. The propensity to move internationally, particularly in the absence of such compelling reasons as wars, is limited to a small proportion of humans.”[20]

Those classified as refugees are an even smaller group, representing a fifth of one percent of the world’s population. In terms of worldwide comparisons the UK accepts a very low number of refugees in proportion to its size and wealth. The figure of 169,370 forms 1.4% of the world’s total and is far lower than Pakistan hosting 2.2.million refugees, or Iran with 1.9 million, or even Germany’s 2001 estimate of 988,500.[21] The total of 71,365 applications for asylum made in the UK during 2001 (of which only 9% were successful), forms less than half of the single movement of 199,900 Afghans who crossed into Pakistan in the same year, representing just one part of the latter country’s immigration in 2001.[22] As Dummet points out in his philosophical study “On Immigration and Refugees”:

“There has been gross inequity in refugee flows to different countries. The countries which have accepted refugees by the million have been the poorest ones: Pakistan, Ethiopia, the Sudan. Developed countries complain when a few thousand or so arrive.”[23]

UNHCR statistics bear this out. The ten largest refugee movements in 2001 were, with the exception of Yugoslavia, all made between countries in the Third World.[24]

The UNHCR also reports that between 1992-2001, 86% of the world's estimated 12 million refugees originated from developing countries, whilst such countries provided asylum to 72% of the global population.[25]

2.1.3 Situation in Refugee Sending Countries

In 2001 the leading nationalities of applicants for asylum in the UK were Afghan (13%), Iraqi (9%), Somali (9%), Sri Lankan (8%) and Turkish (5%).[26] As these nationalities represent the highest numbers it is instructive to give a brief overview of the situation within their countries in order to ascertain why people might make the voluntary or involuntary decision to leave their homes for a difficult and uncertain future. In the process, certain key themes relating to the issue of asylum and immigration automatically emerge.

All five of these countries were involved in armed conflict during the year in question, 2001.

Afghanistan has experienced almost perpetual war since 1979 when it began to be used as a political pawn in the power strategies of the USSR and the USA. In December of that year the Soviet Union invaded following misgivings over the continuing success of an Afghan socialist coup it had backed a year before. As their control weakened the leaders of the coup participated in human rights atrocities, undertaking a consistent policy of threat and terror directed particularly at intellectuals within the country. The USA responded to the Soviet invasion by training and financing an oppositional guerrilla war fought by the Mujahidin.

The violence that ensued resulted in over 6 million refugees leaving the country to seek asylum in Pakistan and Iran.[27] The Soviet Union’s occupation ended in 1989 following its demise, but the Soviet backed government continued to rule until 1992 when its financial backing expired. Despite some stability in certain areas, the capital Kabul was half destroyed in the next few years as warring Mujahidin groups continued fierce fighting, particularly in the north and west of the country.

From this setting, the strongly Islamic Tablilan emerged as a dominant force in 1994 beginning a period of seven years which were marked by human rights abuses carried out by this group against women and political opponents and continual conflict between the Taliban and the ethnic Tajiks, Uzbeks, Turkomans and Hazaras, who regarded the former as an invading force.

In 2001, the USA was the victim of a terrorist attack, an event that had a deep effect on Afghanistan. The subsequent invasion of Afghanistan, by the USA, the UK and a loose coalition of other nations, was justified on the premise that the Taliban was harbouring and protecting the perpetrators. During the initial stage of the invasion 4,150,000 Afghans were cut off from adequate supplies of food, water and shelter.[28] The Taliban were ousted from power and the invasion left over 3,000 civilians dead[29] with a large increase in those without adequate recourse to basic human needs.

Afghanistan’s situation in 2001 involved a country under a temporary military occupation with a shattered infrastructure, barely existent economical base, an unstable and dangerous level of security, and a populace entering their 22nd consecutive year of violent unrest and civil disorder.

In 2001 the UK received 9,000 applications for asylum from Afghanistan. During the same year the number of those granted refugee status was 2,260.[30]

The situation of Iraq in 2001 was very much influenced by events following the end of its violent conflict with Iran in 1988. Civilians had suffered human rights abuses, political persecution and military aggression since 1968 when the Ba’ath party came to power via a coup, but the last decade has seen the country’s most severe problems emerge.

In 1990, The Government made the decision to invade Kuwait due to the latter’s refusal to forgive loans made during the Iraq-Iran war amongst other reasons. This resulted in a counter invasion of Iraq by a coalition force dominated by the USA and the UK and backed by the UN Security Council. An estimated 200,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed in the subsequent conflict.[31] A systemic UN sanctions program was instigated that continued after the major bombing campaign was over. In 2000, Amnesty International described the effect of these sanctions as having:

“[…] crippled the country's economic infrastructure and [having] contributed to a deteriorating economic situation, increased unemployment, rising malnutrition and mortality levels and widespread corruption.”[32]

This view was supported by the UN body UNICEF who estimated a year before that sanctions had “contributed to the deaths of some 500,000 children under the age of five.”[33]

Further attacks on Iraqi territory continued throughout the 1990’s with regular bombing by US and UK planes, whilst repression by the Ba’ath Government continued, including, torture, persecution, arbitrary arrest and detention.

A substantial body of refugees has been generated by these ongoing events with the largest single group, 530,100, existing in Iran.[34]

In 2001 the UK received 4,350 applications for asylum from Iraq. During the same year the number of those granted refugee status was 815.[35]

Somalia’s situation in the 1990’s was very much dictated to by the course of a violent civil war and factional fighting. Between 1991 and 1992 the combination of war and subsequent internal population movements precipitated a severe famine throughout the country. Two factions ruled the northern territories, the Issaq Clan in the northwest and the Darod Clan in the northeast. Both these governments were not internationally recognized.

In 2000 a new government, the Transitional National Government (TNG), emerged in the capital, Mogadishu, and this precipitated further violence from local warring factions who held considerable power in the region.

2001 was marked by continued violence causing hundreds of casualties, and drought resulting in a lack of basic food for much of the population. 400,000 Somalis remained internally displaced and a further 25,000 were forced to flee to Kenya and other neighbouring countries. By the end of the 2001 200,000 displaced people were living in camps and squatter settlements in the Mogadishu area.[36]

In 2001 the UK received 5,630 applications for asylum from Somalia. During the same year the number of those granted refugee status was 2,845.[37]

Sri Lanka has been subject to a violent civil war for over three decades, fought between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamils. In 1972 the Sinhalese dominated government created the Republican Constitution which minimised many important safeguards to the human rights of the Tamils and other minority groups within the country. The separate Tamil political parties merged into the TUFL, the Tamil United Liberation Front, and called for independence in the northeast regions of Sri Lanka. This group later became the LTTE, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The conflict between these groups has been ongoing since this time with violent escalations in 1983, 1987 and 1995. These escalations have left some 20,000 people dead.[38] Both sides of the conflict have participated in severe human rights abuses and strategies of targeting the civilian population.

A unilateral ceasefire was declared by the LTTE in December 2000, but this was not accepted or adhered to by the Government. Despite this offer, in March 2001, the LTTE was placed by the UK government on a list of proscribed organisations under the UK's Terrorism Act 2000. The ceasefire ended soon afterwards with an LTTE attack on Colombo airport in July 2001.

Altogether the conflict has produced 917,000 refugees, mostly Tamil.[39] Apart from India, no one country has emerged as the main destination for asylum claims, with the refugee diaspora spread throughout 50 countries, mainly in Europe and North America. The Indian state of Tamil Nadu holds 70,000 refugees in government camps, while a further 50,000 live in difficult conditions outside.[40]

In 2001 the UK received 2,810 applications for asylum from Sri Lanka. During the same year the number of those granted refugee status was 1,415.[41]

In Turkey ongoing tension has existed with Greece over the Turkish occupation of the island of Cyprus and a second, more substantial conflict has taken place in the last two decades between the Turkish military and the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK). This situation began visibly in 1984 and has continued up until the present, claiming the lives of 37,000 people, the majority Kurdish. An additional 3,000,000 Kurds have been displaced in the process.[42] This conflict has taken place against the background of severe human rights abuses, including the suppression of political parties, the arrest and execution of political leaders, the banning of the Kurdish language (recently revoked) and the destruction of over 3,000 Kurdish villages.[43]

In 2001 the UK received 2,015 applications for asylum from Turkey. During the same year the number of those granted refugee status was 195.[44]

What emerges even from such a brief overview of these countries is the prevalence of war, violence, human rights abuses, insecurity, and lack of food resources in playing defining roles in the flight to other nations. What is further apparent is the extent to which neighbouring countries form the first asylum possibility for those fleeing unbearable life conditions. The relatively large numbers involved in refugee camps in Iran, India and Kenya reflect this point, particularly when compared to the few thousand who apply at British ports.

The combination between the high levels of suffering within these nations, the obvious disparity between this suffering and the relatively peaceful and secure state of western democracies such as the UK and the small numbers applying for asylum, have led international bodies such as the UNHCR to pinpoint fairly clear areas of concern for western nations:

“European States have, as does UNHCR, a particular concern to prevent coerced population movements by tackling their root causes, be they violent conflict, persecution, denial of human rights or abject poverty.”[45]

2.1.4 Summary

In summary, the following conclusions can be drawn from this statistical overview of the UK’s relationship with immigration:

- The proportion of foreign-born residents in the UK reflects the world average at 3% and is far lower than other comparable European countries.
- The UK intake of refugees forms a tiny proportion of its population and falls well below that of other countries, explicitly so in the case of comparison with the Third world.
- Immigration has a negligible effect on population growth in the UK and has, conversely, been held up as a solution for balancing an aging workforce by respected international bodies, including the UN and the EU.
- The situations in those countries sending the most asylum seekers to the UK involve extreme human suffering and deprivation, including war, human rights abuses and poverty.

It is interesting to return at this point to the original questions asked at the beginning of this section: What would news outlets in the UK be anticipated to discuss and report on the issue of immigration and asylum given these facts? Certain issues would be likely to emerge, including demographic trends in the UK and Europe, the positive and negative effects of immigration, the comparison of the UK intake with other countries in the world, the UK’s political and economic policies towards repressive regimes that generate refugees, the effects of war, human rights abuse and poverty and the health and welfare of those refugees that do arrive seeking asylum.

2.2 Agenda of U.K. Political Elites with regard to Asylum and Immigration

For the purpose of this thesis the term political elite is defined after Van Dijk as a group with special power resources in the domain of politics.[46] These power resources include:

“[…] property, income, decision control, knowledge, expertise, position, rank, as well as social and ideological resources such as status, prestige, fame, influence, respect, and similar resources ascribed to them by groups, institutions, or society at large.”[47]

The term refers therefore to both elected politicians who hold a decision-making mandate in Parliament and to non-politicians whose power resources give them the ability to meaningfully influence that decision-making.

Political agenda is usually classified on a scale from ‘left’ to ‘right’, representing the extent to which socialism and conservatism play an ideological role in ideas and policy. This thesis will argue that there is no such clear distinction within the goals of the UK political elite with regard to asylum and immigration, which has in fact a uniform consistency, irrespective of whether a Labour or a Conservative government holds power in Westminster. The basis for this assertion is explored in 2.2.1 through a study of the historical record of UK immigration policy from the early 20th century to the present day.

In 2.2.2 and 2.2.3 the analysis continues, exploring some of the political strategies that have emerged from this historical precedent and placing these within the current environment of ‘globalisation’, the term often used to describe the economic policies of neo-liberalism currently favoured by all the main political parties in the UK.

In a mirror image to 2.1 this section contains background questions asked in the light of the information presented. What news issues relating to asylum and immigration would reflect areas of concern for the elite political agenda in the UK? To what extent do these represent the issues outlined in 2.1? What are the themes of news issues that would either reflect a low priority or provide a challenge for this elite agenda?

2.2.1 Historical Record in the UK

The first UK parliamentary debates concerning the control of immigration began to occur during the 1880’s and in 1903 a Royal Commission met to discuss the issue of ‘undesirable aliens’. The group of people causing the concern were Jewish, responsible for a migrating pattern that led 120,000 Jews to enter Britain between 1875 and 1914 (an average of approximately 3,000 per year), fleeing anti-Semitism in Russia and Eastern Europe.[48] Despite discovering that the UK’s intake of immigrants was comparatively small and dismissing accusations of immigrants’ lack of hygiene, disease and overcrowding, the Commission recommended that controls be introduced and in 1905 the Parliamentary Aliens Act was passed as law. In the process of this Act, the UK Immigration service was created for the first time and has existed ever since.

This Act began a political tradition that has continued in the UK up until the present, involving the passionate criticism of anti-immigration legislation by opposition parties who, once in power, not only fail to repeal the policies, but actually increase their stringency.[49] This occurred in 1914 during the First World War with the passing of the Aliens Restriction Act, which invested substantial discretionary powers in the hands of the Home Secretary including the right to prohibit and deport, without legal justification, any immigrants and refugees entering the country. The Act was argued on the basis of an emergency war-time measure, yet it not only continued to exist after the war was over, but was expanded by a new Act passed in 1919, introducing further powers and restrictions, including the empowerment of immigration officers to make discretionary entry refusals without recourse to appeal. In this way a second political tradition began with respect to immigration, i.e. emergency immigration legislation remaining in place after the alleged threats have subsided.

The political discourse used during parliamentary debates discussing these laws reveals an overt use of racist terminology. Immigrants are described as “refuse and scum”[50] or “sewage”[51] and are repeatedly referred to as “diseased.”[52] This reflected the general normality of open racist ideology that permeated elite political circles in the pre-war period. The British High Commissioner in South Africa could state, without fear of reprisal that:

“A political equality of white and black is impossible. The white man must rule because he is elevated by many, many steps above the black man.”[53]

Even at the highest levels, racism formed a respectable discourse. Winston Churchill, during his term as the UK Prime Minister, declared that there was no reason to be “apologetic about Anglo-Saxon superiority” for the simple explanation that “We are superior.”[54]

In 1924 a newly formed Labour-Liberal Government, having opposed the 1919 Act on principles of humanity and equality, refused to repeal this once in power and yet, having lost the 1924 election was criticised by the incoming Conservative Party for pandering to the needs of aliens as opposed to “our own people”.[55] The result after 1929, when the Labour-Liberals were re-elected, was a vigorous defence of how their immigration policy had “not been in any way loosened.”[56]

Dummet describes this pattern of criticism and defence in straightforward power terms:

“The principle governing the policies of the Conservative and Labour Governments, and indeed, with a very few honourable exceptions, of all Conservative and Labour politicians, has been exactly the same. The objective, in this case has been to maximise electoral support: to gain votes. This, indeed has been the principle on which British governments have acted in respect of would-be immigrants and refugees.”[57]

Despite subsequent outrage expressed over the treatment of those of Jewish origin in Germany during the period of the National Socialists, it is rarely commented on that the UK governments at the time did not, as a result of this oppression, meaningfully relax the strict immigration policies outlined above. As a result only 11,000 Jews were admitted to Britain between the years of 1933 and 1938. Once the Second World War had begun, the policy towards this group was one of forced internment, including the shipment to the colonial outposts of Australia and Canada, where reports of abuse and maltreatment were common.[58]

Following the war, the UK was left with both a labour shortage and the beginnings of a burgeoning growth rate that would continue over the next decade. A relatively easy solution lay in the British citizenship of its Commonwealth subjects, whose exemption from the conditions of the Aliens Act allowed them to travel freely and work in the UK. An added incentive for British firms involved circumnavigating the usual European recruitment and travel costs. From 1948 onwards there was a marked increase in Asian and Caribbean workers arriving in Britain. The response of UK governments was one of caution rather than welcome. George Isaacs, Minister of Labour, acknowledged the necessity for British industry of the West Indian arrivals, but he expressed hope that “no encouragement is given to others to follow their example.”[59]

Between 1951 and 1964 the Conservative Party held power in the UK and a steady pressure emerged to prevent the free movement of non-white Commonwealth British citizens to come and work in the UK. This culminated in the next major piece of legislation, the 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act. Despite the fact that, during parliamentary debate on this law, many statements were made publicly in support of the benefits of Commonwealth immigration, the subsequent publication of Cabinet and internal documents have revealed that a racist agenda motivated the policies of both parties. As Hayter observed, this documentary evidence shows that “most of the politicians, particularly the Tory leadership, wanted to keep black people out.”[60] An example of such discourse and motivations can be seen in the comments of Lord Swinton of the Commonwealth Relations Office, recorded in 1954:

“If we legislate on immigration, though we can draft it in non-discriminatory terms, we cannot conceal the obvious fact that the object is to keep out coloured people. […] [A large coloured community] is certainly no part of the concept of England or Britain to which British stock throughout the Commonwealth are attached.”[61]

The 1962 Act instigated a new requirement for Commonwealth immigrants to hold work vouchers, which were divided into skilled and unskilled labour and were also categorised with regard to whether or not a job had been secured before travelling. Reflecting Lord Swinton’s comments this had an actual discriminatory effect, with white applicants overwhelmingly holding the favoured categorisations. The discriminatory intent of this Act was borne out by the comments of the Conservative Home Secretary who privately explained the new requirements as follows:

“The great merit of this scheme is that it can be presented as making no distinction on race or colour […] Although the scheme purports to relate solely to employment and to be non-discriminatory, the aim is primarily social and its restrictive effect is intended to, and would in fact, operate on coloured people almost exclusively.”[62]

When the Labour government returned to office again in 1964, all rhetoric condemning the 1962 Act for its barely veiled discrimination disappeared and in fact the Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson proceeded to make the measures even stricter. In the original Act there was limited space for admission of people with neither a job nor particular skills at the point of entry. This was abolished by Labour and the maximum numbers of those allowed was reduced to 8,500 a year. By the time the Tory Party had returned to office in 1970, a second Commonwealth Immigration Act in 1968 had caused this to fall further to 4,010 with the subsequent 1969 Immigration Appeals Act limiting student admission to a year, visitors to six months and additionally increasing government deportation powers.[63]


[1] defined as “people who have been residents in a country other than that of their birth for more than one year.” IOM/UN (2000), p. 4

[2] For more detail see 4.1.3

[3] The Refugee Council, Press Myths / Oxfam, Myths and realities – Asylum in the UK

[4] Herman, Edward S. / Chomsky, Noam (1988)

[5] For more detail see 4.2.2

[6] Curran, James / Seaton, Jean (1997)

[7] Franklin, Bob (1994)

[8] Herman, Edward S / Chomsky, Noam (1988)

[9] Philo, Greg (ed) (1985)

[10] For further debate on this issue see Bakewell, Oliver, Radstats

[11] Eurostats, quoted in IOM/UN (2000)

[12] Ibid.

[13] ECRE, EU Asylum Facts

[14] The Home Office Research and Development Statistics Directorate, Asylum Statistics 2001

[15] UK Office for National Statistics, Population and Migration

[16] Ibid.

[17] UN (2002)

[18] European Commission (2000), p. 25

[19] Dummett, Michael (2001), p. 64

[20] IOM/UN (2000), p. 5

[21] UNHCR, Refugees by Numbers 2002 Edition

[22] UNHCR, Refugees by Numbers 2002 Edition

[23] Dummett, Michael (2001), p. 36

[24] UNHCR, Refugees by Numbers 2002 Edition

[25] Ibid.

[26] The Home Office Research and Development Statistics Directorate, Asylum Statistics 2001

[27] The Refugee Council, Country Information, Afghanistan

[28] Ibid.

[29] Herold, Marc W. (2002)

[30] The Home Office Research and Development Statistics Directorate, Asylum Statistics 2001

[31] Pilger, John (1998), p. 53

[32] Amnesty International (2000)

[33] UNICEF, Iraq Child and Maternal Mortality Surveys 1999

[34] UNHCR, Refugees by Numbers 2002 Edition

[35] The Home Office Research and Development Statistics Directorate, Asylum Statistics 2001

[36] US Committee for Refugees, Information by Country: Somalia

[37] The Home Office Research and Development Statistics Directorate, Asylum Statistics 2001

[38] Burrows, Gideon (2001), p. 43

[39] The Refugee Council, Country Information, Sri Lanka

[40] Ibid.

[41] The Home Office Research and Development Statistics Directorate, Asylum Statistics 2001

[42] Burrows, Gideon (2001), p. 55

[43] Ibid., p. 56

[44] The Home Office Research and Development Statistics Directorate, Asylum Statistics 2001

[45] UNHCR (2000), p. 23

[46] Van Dijk’s full definition is as follows: “an informal, heuristic notion to denote groups in society that have special power resources. Depending on the societal domain or field in which they wield power, we may speak of, for example, political, state, corporate, scientific, military, or social elites, although some elites may operate across domain boundaries as well, for instance when corporate or military elites are able to influence the process of political decision making.” (Van Dijk, Tenn A. (1993), p. 44)

[47] Ibid., p. 44

[48] Hayter, Teresa (2000), p. 38

[49] The historian Paul Foot made the following observation with regard to principles governing Labour Home Secretaries and immigration in the twentieth century: “First, behave in office in direct contrast to your promises and principles when in opposition; second, strive mightily to be less humane than the Tories” (Foot, Paul (1968), quoted in Hayter, Teresa (2000) p. 41) He saw these as having been “for the most part[…] followed[…] scrupulously” (ibid., p. 41)

[50] Watson, Cathcart, Liberal MP (1903), quoted in Hayter, Teresa (2000), p. 38

[51] Fisher, W. Hayes, Tory MP, quoted in Hayter, Teresa (2000), p. 39

[52] Ibid., p. 39

[53] quoted in Lauren, P.G: (1988) quoted in Van Dijk, Tenn A. (1993), p. 56

[54] Ibid., p. 58

[55] quoted in Hayter, Teresa (2000), p. 41

[56] Clynes, John, Home Secretary (1931) quoted in Hayter, Teresa (2000), p. 41

[57] Dummett, Michael (2001), p. 3

[58] Hayter, Teresa (2000), p. 42

[59] quoted in Foot, Paul (1968), quoted in Hayter, Teresa (2000) p. 45

[60] Hayter, Teresa (2000), p. 46. With reference to Spencer, Ian (1997)

[61] Swinton (1954) quoted in Hayter, Teresa (2000), p. 46

[62] quoted in Hayter, Teresa (2000), p. 47

[63] Hayter, Teresa (2000), p. 51


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
686 KB
Institution / Hochschule
Alice-Salomon Hochschule Berlin
Rubbing Salt Wounds




Titel: Rubbing Salt in the Wounds - A study of media, power and immigration