A piece I wrote on the language popularly used when talking about immigration was published yesterday on The New Statesman’s blog:
Immigration has rarely been far from newspaper pages in recent times. A report, released last week by the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, looked at the 43 million words that made up the content dealing with migrants and migration in all 20 of Britain’s main national daily and Sunday newspapers between 2010 and 2012. It found that the most common word used to describe “immigrants” across broadsheet, mid-market and tabloid newspapers was “illegal”. This far outnumbered any other word. Water based metaphors such as “flood”, “influx” and “wave” were frequently used to describe “immigrants” and “migrants”.
These results fit our current political discourse. We are living in times of severe hostility towards immigrants. The language used shows just how normalised these views have become. I grew up hearing “go home Paki” and seeing those signs everywhere in Oldham in the early 90s when I first arrived in England. I never would have thought it would be the government, not far right racist groups, who would be telling people to “go home” twenty years later.