Changing perceptions of refugees and immigration
On this day, 20 June 2019, we observe World Refugee Day. We mark the occasion by publishing the first in a series on global issues. The series will examine what is means to be human in the early 21st century, the challenges we face and what we can do to shape the future of the world we share.
The recent surge in refugees and migrants making their way to Europe and North America is a cause of great concern. It is concerning in that there are tens of thousands who are literally fleeing from somewhere and heading towards where they hope is a safer or better place. Among their numbers are those fleeing war zones and political persecution, and others who are simply leaving their homelands in search of a better life.
There is also the concern felt in the destination countries to which the migrants are travelling. Those concerns are vast and varied – where are all these people going to live, who will take care of them and who will pay for them? Arguably, this has led to the rise of populism, nationalism and the far-right, all of which are fuelled by a common fear.
Brexit, Trump, Five Star Movement, Marine Le Pen, eurosceptic, build the wall...names and phrases repeated over and over again in media in recent years. And they are all laser-focused on one issue: immigration.
Populist, biased media
The issue of immigration has been politicised and is now in the fore of societies around the world. It can be argued that the very foundation of Brexit was the issue of immigration. It can further be argued that Trump became president on the same card. How can the popular mindset be changed when it comes to the issue of immigrants?
The facts and figures usually do not align with popular perception and therefore the facts are often ignored. For example, studies show that many countries overestimate immigration numbers by more than double the actual number.
When examining the mainstream media in relation to Brexit, for example, it is easy to find the industrial-scale sensationalist misinformation and media bias towards immigration that arguably bore some influence on the result. On social media, the accusations levelled at Russia concerning Brexit and the 2016 US elections bear the same hallmarks.
Unfortunately, the majority of people believe most things they read in press and on the Internet; it is only a tiny minority who verify and fact-check. The challenge here is to educate the Citizens of the World.
Citizens should be educated on how to fact-check before sharing information online. A simple cross-reference of the information is enough to determine fact from fiction and can severely limit the reach and spread of misinformation.
In conclusion, Citizens of the World are being bombarded with misinformation on immigration, refugees and migrant data, and this is impacting public perception. Politicians and the media are leading the public opinion as opposed to lending a voice to it, and that needs to stop. The public is encouraged to read widely, fact-check, and engage in meaningful discourse on immigration.