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How Fleet Street misled its readers on immigration

The Mail, the Express and the Independent all inaccurately claimed that immigration rose by 20 per c

I blogged yesterday on how the Daily Mail misrepresented the latest migration figures by claiming that immigration had "soared by 20%". In fact, it was net migration - the difference between the number of people entering and leaving Britain - that rose by 21 per cent last year, mainly due to the lowest level of emigration since June 2005. The paper's journalists were, as I wrote, guilty of either extreme stupidity or extreme cynicism.

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But the Mail wasn't the only culprit. The front page of today's Daily Express, a paper which makes a special effort to mislead its readers on this subject, similarly declared: "Immigration soars 20% in a year". Yet as the ONS graph below shows, immigration has barely risen since 2004. The long-term immigration rate was 575,000 in 2010, up slightly from 567,000 the previous year - a 1.4 per cent rise, not a 20 per cent rise.

(Click graph to enlarge.)

How Fleet Street mislead its readers on immigration. 

Source: IPS, ONS Migration statistics quarterly report, August 25 2011

As Full Fact notes, the Daily Mirror and the Independent - papers that should know better - made the same mistake. But these errors, I suspect, were the result of ignorance. In the case of the Mail and the Express, however, there appears to be a calculated attempt to whip up prejudice and bigotry against immigrants. I'm a supporter of press self-regulation but its no wonder that some on the left call for statutory regulation when the tabloids continually lie about immigration and its effect on our society. As I noted yesterday, Sky News amended its headline after it too claimed that "immigration" had risen by 20 per cent. But the Mail and Express won't. Why do the papers lie about immigration? Because they can.