By Gary Buswell
Among the many positives of the Olympics this summer was the noticeable change of tone around reporting of migrants in the mainstream press. With a diverse array of British medallists inspiring a more open national pride throughout the country, familiar tabloid headlines of new arrivals here to “milk the system” were nowhere to be seen.
Mo Farah’s exploits even inspired stories about the benefits of immigration, leaving some of us thinking a legacy of the games might be more balanced and fact-based reporting on such issues.
Sadly not. Less than a month after the close of the Paralympics both The Sun and The Daily Express were up to their old tricks, publishing a typically sensationalist story about Bulgarian migrants.
The stories made unfounded accusations about a homeless Bulgarian family. But the worst thing about the reports was the depiction of an innocent Italian man distributing food to them as a “benefits scrounger”. Salvatore Quero was shocked to see himself on the front page of The Express, presented as a member of the family, under the headline Migrants make mugs of us all.
The article caused Mr Quero difficulties with authorities. “When I walked into the Jobcentre the following day, I was confronted by staff about my real nationality”, he said. “I was shown the article and told I was a liar”.
Ironically The Sun and The Express were among the biggest cheerleaders of Somali refugee Farah’s Olympic success and both spent the summer glorifying the games, which featured a significant number of British medallists, volunteers and paid staff from migrant backgrounds, as a resounding British success.
The Migrants Resource Centre, where Mr Quero is a client, have filed a complaint on his behalf with the Press Complaints Commission and have asked both papers for an apology. Ros Lucas, the MRC’s executive director, said: “After such positive images and articles in the press about migrants at the Olympics and Team GB, it has not taken long for the gutter press to resort to inflammatory, inaccurate reporting on migrant issues.”
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