Friday, 23 October 2009

MailWatch #6 Part 1

Time again for another instalment of our occasional service debunking migration stories in the Daily Mail, self-styled 'Last Bulwark Against The Tide Of Filth That Is Threatening To Engulf Civilisation'™

We sat down today having promised to write another instalment of MailWatch, but we have been severely waylaid as we have discovered a whole website dedicated to the wonderful world of Mail watching called, yes you've guessed it, MailWatch. Of course we never thought our idea for the title was that original, so discovering that the MailWatch team had been posting since July 2004 has given us food for thought and we have decided that we will not duplicate some of their work on migration issues and just link directly to it with possible extra added analysis.

That said, we do cover more of the Mail's migration stories than the MailWatch site does and here's one they haven't yet covered: 'Vast new illegal migrant camp opens in France as officials admit they have 'no alternative'' [17 October]. This article is of particular interest to us because one of our group actually visited the camp in question back in February this year.

It is in fact a small temporary winter camp (they appear regularly across northern France during the winter months as locals feel it is their humanitarian duty not to let people freeze to death in the local woods and hedgerows) for up to 30 people. Yet our old friend Peter 'Never Mind The Facts' Allen claims that "A vast charity camp for illegal migrants heading towards England has opened in northern France."

He then states: "As fears grew that it will become a magnet for thousands more, officials said they had 'no alternative' but to allow it to be put it in place." Who's fear the article doesn't tell us (even though it's in the headline, so it must be true) and why thousands more will come, when the same camp ran throughout last winter with no more than 30 Eritreans on site,* we are again not told. Maybe the fears are Allen's himself or Nigel Farage who was wheeled out as (a rather disappointing) rent-a-quote (maybe the Green twins had their mobiles turned off).

As to which officials claim there is 'no alternative' the article leaves us none the wiser. Why 'no alternative' and not "no alternative", as in a direct quote? Must be Allen's interpretation of what the 'officials' were saying. Or maybe it's just his dodgy grasp of French (see the 'Global Calais Scheme' post).

So what is the camp like? It has 2 large sleeping tents and one for cooking, equipped with stoves and storage, all provided by the local Terre d'Errance group. The migrants also have the use of the church hall were there is a laundry and showers. However, Allen makes the camp sound like a three star hotel: "Last night dozens slept in tents equipped with beds and showers. There are also cooking facilities and a clothes store."

Then, after a bit more padding to turn this non-story into a no-story story, we get the killer trade mark Allen touch - the unattributed quote from a local 'police spokesman', this one suggesting that the camp will attract people traffickers. It wonderful what you can do with an unattributed quote here and there.

Allen has of course written about the Steenvoorde camp before, on 1 December 2008 under the byline 'Mail Foreign Service' (he is their Paris Correspondent after all) - 'Increased immigration fears as French charity sets up camp for illegal migrants heading to UK' and cobbled together from local press reports. It started off, "A French charity has enraged UK officials by setting up a camp to help illegal migrants bound for the UK." And apparently it was "designed for the thousands of migrants who regularly make their way to Channel ports in the hope of reaching the UK by ferry or train." It wasn't true then and it isn't true now.

Which brings us to the latest in the Mail's very very scary use of statistics (or would that be MigrationBotch's use of statistic?) to prove that Johnnie foreigner is indeed swamping their 'green and pleasant land'.

MigrationBotch's last two press releases have been entitled 'Official Statistics Published Today Show Immigration Will Add Just Under 7 Million To The UK Population In The Next 25 Years' [21 October] and 'Immigrant Population Has Increased By More Than Two Million In Eight Years - Immigrants have almost doubled under Labour' [19 October], and both were based on a Communities and Local Government paper 'Regional Economic Performance: A migration perspective', which the Mail claims was "slipped out without notice last month and only revealed yesterday after academics discovered them and reported them to an immigration think-tank."

Except the 'academics' and the think-tank are one and the same (see the Five Chinese Crackers blog) and we all know who that was! And the Mail and the Express have recycled the same data and effectively the same story each time they have regurgitated the latest MigrationBotch press release. Now we haven't got enough time to go fully into these ramifications of this today but we will be covering it in the second part of this MailWatch piece. In the meantime we will leave you with some links to the articles, the press releases and a few pointers of what to look out for and give you the chance to draw your own conclusions before we run ours up the flagpole for you to salute.

'How Britain’s Leaky Borders Let In 700 Migrants Each Day' [Express, 19/10/09]
'More than 700 migrants a day have been let in to Britain since Labour came to power' [Mail, 19/10/09]
'Immigration to drive up Britain's population to 70million within 20 years' [Mail, 21/10/09]
'Crowded Britain heading for 70m as migration causes population to rise faster than ever before' [Mail, 22/10/09]
'Immigration To Push British Population To More Than 70m' [Express, 22/10/09]

and the piece de resistance, MigrationBotch's very own Alan Green (or should that be Alan Green's very own MigrationBotch's?) comment piece (the Mail were too lazy to write it themselves so they got him to do it for them):

'We must halt this conspiracy of silence over our immigration crisis' [Mail, 22/10/09]

A few pointers:
Why do they miss India (the second most populous country with 1,130m people) and Taiwan (22.8m) of the graph in the 'Crowded Britain' article?
Why use an arbitrary cut-off point of countries with 10m or more people? (see: Wikipedia's list of countries by population density and the World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision Population Database for statistics)
Why the magic population figure of 70m? Could it be something to do with the Optimum Population Trust or any one of those other 'balanced migration' groups?
Is the Mail comparing apples with oranges again, and coming up with bananas?

See what you think? And we'll compare notes in MailWatch #6 Part 2 next week.

* The cap of 30 people was agreed between Terre d'Errance, the local mayor and police and the migrants themselves. It was not, to the best of our knowledge, eve broken. The current camp has a limit of 25.

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