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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


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