The imaginary that has been created around migration is very complex. It has been built by different actors with different interests over time and the media has been one of them. The media play a fundamental role in how migration is understood and in the perception of migrants.
Of course there are exceptions, but the media narrative around migration is mostly negative. In fact, a study developed in six countries (Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom) between 2013 and 2014 found that unfavorable coverage of migration in print and digital media was more than twice as visible as favorable, and the examples below demonstrate that unfortunately, the trend continues today.
Mistake 1. Nationalities in headlines
The first example relates to the inclusion of a person's nationality in a headline unnecessarily, especially when reporting on a crime. If the crime was committed by a national, this information would not be added to the headline, so emphasizing it when it is a foreign person is unnecessary. In different contexts it has been evidenced that the increase of migrants is not associated with an increase in crime, but in the concern of people in terms of security, this type of trends are not fed in data but in coverage or non-inclusive practices.
This action has a great weight in current consumption habits, because according to the Digital News Report published by Reuters Agency, users tend to read only the headlines of the news.
Mistake 2. Word choice and metaphors: the wave of migrants
This term is quite common, so much so that on many occasions it ends up being incorporated into our daily conversations. However, we rarely stop to reflect: are they correct? Is it really right to refer to migrants as part of "a wave", a natural phenomenon that we tend to associate with danger and disasters? Unconsciously we are also being part of the problem by continuing to perpetuate a negative imaginary around migration. The metaphors we use to talk about migrant flows and groups of people will greatly impact the connotation we give to the public about the phenomenon.
Mistake 3. Illegal migration
Migration is not a crime. Therefore, it is not appropriate to speak of 'illegal migration or illegal migrants'. Instead, it is correct to speak of regular and irregular channels of migration. However, the term is used very naturally in information products, which leads to migration being perceived as something dangerous by the receiving communities.
Mistake 4. Migrants as 'threats
According to its definition, 'hoarding' means "to accumulate things that others also want or need, especially items or services that are expected to become scarce or more expensive". The mere selection of a word in a headline can help reinforce the idea that migrants "are threats" who come to take advantage of state services in host communities or even to take away employment opportunities, which represents a skewed view of reality that does not take into account the full contribution migrants make to the development and economy of countries.
An analysis in Costa Rica on the use of health services showed that the anti-immigrant discourse is based on the idea that migrants are "taking our jobs" and that they are taking "our" medical appointments, but this is based on general perceptions and not on concrete data, It is possible to show that the Nicaraguan migrant population is rather underrepresented in the health services and that in the direct contributory insurance (as salaried or voluntary), Nicaraguan migrants (37%) contribute more than nationals (31%).
A more humane coverage of migration?
The aforementioned approaches leave aside issues of great relevance such as, for example, the relationship between migration and development not only for the countries of origin and destination, but also for migrants, for example:
- The great economic and social contributions that are given by the occupation of migrants in areas with low demand in the country of destination, in addition to an impact by remittances in the countries of origin.
- Migration can represent a better fulfillment of the human rights of migrants, such as access to work, education, health care and civil and political rights, especially in those cases where migration occurs due to the absence or violation of these rights.
- Migration makes important cultural contributions by bringing with it new customs, traditions, languages and worldviews.
- In addition, it is important to remember that migration, as complex as it may seem, is made up of people and how they are represented in communicative products affects their integration in the host countries.
Other coverage of migration, more than possible, is necessary. That is why the International Organization for Migration has developed resources aimed at journalists and people working in other areas of communication that you can consult here: https://programamesocaribe.iom.int/en/migration-coverage