It was a favourite tactic of the pro-Brexit press during the referendum to conflate images and stories of the European migrant crisis with EU citizens coming to Britain to work. It helped portray migration as one homogenous, threatening issue. 

The Sun keeps this tabloid tradition alive today with its choice of image to accompany a comment piece by MEP and arch-Brexiteer Daniel Hannan, which speculates on government plans to control migration from the EU.

Sun article with migrant picture

The caption reflects the content of Hannan’s article, reading: “EU nationals wanting to get jobs in the UK will be entitled to a five-year work permit.”

But rather than showing economic migrants from the EU, the picture shows a group of young men, some in hoods, walking towards the Eurotunnel. The Getty Images website reveals this image to have been taken at the height of the Calais migrant crisis by one of their staff photographers, Philippe Huguen, with the description: “Migrants walk in the direction of the Eurotunnel terminal on August 6, 2015 in Frethun near Calais, northern France.”

Images from Europe’s migrant crisis – from which the UK was largely sheltered due to it not being a member of the EU’s borderless Schengen Area – were used extensively by pro-Brexit publications and campaigners during the referendum. The most infamous example was Nigel Farage’s giant “Breaking Point” poster, using images of migrants miles away in the Balkans to argue “the EU has failed us all”. Other Leave heavyweights distanced themselves from the poster, which was compared to anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda.

Today’s image is by no means The Sun’s most brazen attempt to confuse EU economic migration with illegal non-EU migration. That accolade must go to a report days before the referendum of migrants discovered in the back of a lorry who claimed “We’re from Europe” to police. In a video included in The Sun’s own online version of the story, the migrant family could clearly be heard saying “Iraq” and “Kuwait”. The Sun and the Daily Mail both agreed to correct that story.

InFacts has asked The Sun to correct the latest story. The newspaper agreed to replace the picture “for the sake of clarification” but refused to issue a correction. The Sun said: “The original [picture] is simply a generic image showing potential immigrants, most of whom would be looking for work,” and that the picture was not “misleading in the context of the article. A correction would not be appropriate.”

by Luke Lythgoe | 28.02.2017

Edited by Hugo Dixon

From time to time we'll share exclusive interview clips (including never-seen-before footage), the most incisive blog posts and the most interesting dispatches from our event organisers as they take the europe debate to the furthest, biggest, smallest, weirdest, most unusual places around europe and beyond.

Sign up to the Newsletter

Share this

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
Stay in touch Get our Newsletter


Free Word Centre
60 Farringdon Road
London EC1R 3GA


The Wake up Foundation is a registered charity no. 1152894

Donate now

Sign in with Facebook, Twitter or email.

Created with NationBuilder

X Close

Join Wake Up Europe!

Wake Up Europe is a campaign brought to you by the Wake Up Foundation. It was sparked by the themes explored in The Great European Disaster Movie by Annalisa Piras and Bill Emmott.

We believe in the values that inspired the European project but that this project isn't working. Europe is sleep-walking towards disaster. We must wake up Europe so that we can save Europe from itself.

This job is too important to be left to the elites, the media, the political parties alone: ordinary people must be encouraged to discuss what Europe they want to see.

Or support us another way

Donate Host an event