The closure of the ‘jungle’ camp in Calais over the past week has brought out the worst in UK’s tabloid newspapers.
Following on from the articles last week which cast doubts about the ages of child refugees without any proof to back up their assertions, and the story in The Sun at the weekend which appeared to be a piece of fiction based on a months-old article in the Daily Mail, the UKIP-supporting tabloid the Daily Express has weighed in with a dubious offering of its own.
In an article titled SYRIAN REFUGEE WITH FOUR WIVES AND 23 CHILDREN ‘CLAIMS £320,000 A YEAR IN BENEFITS’, the paper highlights a case it claims has ‘sparked outrage’.
The story has also been picked up by The Sun among others.
It concerns a man known as Ghazia A who according to German newspapers fled Syria last year and has settled in Germany along with his four wives and 22 of his 23 children.
The paper makes a big deal of the ‘staggering’ £320,000 benefits it claims the man is receiving on behalf of his family.
Although it turns out he is not actually receiving this amount at all. This is simply a gross figure (360,000EUR) that a German financial writer has calculated as the maximum that all members of these families could claim for in a blog.
The Express even writes in its article that ‘there is no official confirmation on this figure’.
So why is the paper writing about it as if it’s actually happening?
This amount given comes from no government-approved source. It’s merely the calculations of one individual. But it’s difficult to see where these estimates come from.
Cash benefits available to refugees seeking asylum in Germany are a maximum of 216EUR for adults and 92EUR for children per month, rising to a maximum of 400EUR per month after a certain period of time for adults.
So even if we assume that all 27 potential claimants are adults claiming the maximum of 404EUR per month, this still comes out at way below the estimation of 360,000EUR per year.
Given that there seems to be no actual evidence presented that money from the state is being claimed by any of these individuals, let alone all of them, this appears to be a manipulative piece of reporting designed purely to plant the idea of large families of refugees coming over to claim excessive benefits in the minds of tabloid readers.
These slabs of misinformation and exaggeration are then re-reported across dozens of newspaper outlets and far-right websites across the globe as facts, reinforcing a distorted and paranoid world-view among thousands, perhaps millions, of people. Put any of these headlines that appear in the Daily Express, the Daily Mail, The Sun, etc. into a search engine and it will show you the sort of sites that pick up and run with this rubbish.
It’s a dangerous game these tabloids are playing, and one that shows no signs of slowing up.
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