Young People’s Voices: Refugee Rights in the UK Media

Continuing our new series of stories from our Young People’s Voices project – funded by Victorious Festival and supported by the University of Portsmouth – student at Havant and South Downs College, Zoe Ingram, explores the issues of the refugee crisis and the lack of transparent reporting from the media.

Human rights were introduced and made public to the British people after the devastation that was the Second World War. The intention was to prevent shockingly savage events such as the Holocaust and vile human experimentation from ever happening again.

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) was put into action in 1953. These were the first international laws on human rights and one of the countries who helped in organising it from the very beginning was the UK. Unfortunately, unbeknown to many, these very rights that define our freedoms are violated regularly around the world, while many of the events causing these violations are downplayed in the press

And why would you be moved to question the British press when they are the very people we rely on to tell us what’s happening on our own planet? Well, you wouldn’t, would you? As a consequence many people are unaware of the severe treatments that our fellow human beings are treated with across the world.

For example, according to Human Rights Watch The Trump administration seeks to rewrite America’s traditional welcome to the persecuted: from now on the huddled masses, or anyone fleeing conflict and abuse, will have to pay a fee for the right to seek asylum.’ The president has essentially declared that asylum seekers can afford to pay a fee, maintain themselves without working for months or years, and still afford an immigration attorney to represent them.

This is far from accurate. The vast majority of asylum seekers are not economic migrants; they are mostly poor with very little options available to earn any money till they are declared citizens. 

It is appalling how few UK citizens are unaware of the new rulings this year, despite the press feeling the need to splash Trump all over the news for truly terrible tweets. The lack of coverage about the refugee crisis around the globe has resulted in the public being misinformed about the people who are harshly and personally affected, as the uninformed public are made to form their own assumptions.

If that little story doesn’t open your eyes, dear reader, then how about a situation closer to home? 

A range of local organisations, groups and bodies recently announced that Portsmouth is a City of Sanctuary, proud to offer safety and sanctuary to anyone fleeing violence and persecution or who is vulnerable and isolated. Despite the welcoming of people in need, the issue of acceptance into the city can still be improved. With reports of protests towards the new arrivals, it makes us question what more can be done, and why can’t it be covered more in the press as a problem?

According to Safer Portsmouth Partnership: ‘There has been an increase in hate crime incidents reported to the police. Analysis has shown a peak in hate crime at the time of the EU referendum, and increases after the Westminster Bridge and Manchester Arena terrorist attacks.’ This is another example of the ripple effect that the propaganda against migrants causes. These spikes were exceedingly alarming as the press turned to blame each and every attack on the innocent people coming to the UK for a better life – an easy target to a deeper problem.

We must give credit to Portsmouth for recognising these issues, for example, in the many organisations, forums and campaigns to reduce discrimination and hate crimes against refugees.  Whether this can also help to repair divided social opinions is yet to be seen. 

If more cities adopted similar strategies, maybe we would have a better national understanding of these issues and we would be able to find solutions more rationally, rather than causing a moral panic.

In 2015 the UK did just that. A moral panic ensued as Calais faced its own ‘immigration crisis.’ The Calais Jungle was a refugee and migrant encampment in France which was built to contain migrants – from Syria to Africa. Britain had given the French government millions to invest in keeping the migrants in the camp

Even after detaining them and leaving the refugees in the minimum living conditions of the camp, people began to piece their lives together by creating a small society within its walls. This worried French authorities and the camp was bulldozed, scattering the innocent people.

The UK press then put full blame on the people in the camp as they were represented as violent. By causing moral panic, it made refugees the villains, and the UK and French authorities the heroes.

Surely it is the moral obligation of British journalists to provide us with the facts and allow us to face the harsh reality that envelops us without our knowledge?

I believe that the moral to these stories that I would like you to take away is this: don’t believe everything you read.


Further reading

Star & Crescent: articles on asylum seekers and refugees

Star & Crescent: Stronger Together: An Interview with Friends Without Borders Part I and Part 2

Media Reform Coalition: Who owns the UK media?

Safer Portsmouth Partnership: Hate crime

Guardian, 2015: Now we can see the ‘Calais crisis’ for what it was – a media-made myth


The Young People’s Voices project aims to provide young people with a platform to share their opinions, report on topics that affect them and advance standards of literacy. We worked with students from St Edmunds School and Havant and South Downs College to investigate and write their own stories, in a variety of styles and mediums – from creative memoir and opinion pieces to their own investigations. All their work will be published on S&C throughout July, and all participants have the chance to enter their work into a competition to read their story on the Spoken Word Stage at the 2019 Victorious Festival. You will find all the Young People’s Voices stories here as we publish them.


This project is supported by the University of Portsmouth, with thanks to the teams in Creative and Cultural Industries (CCI). It was delivered by University of Portsmouth MSc and PhD researchers Maddie Wallace and Lauren Jones.