SRtRC looks at Daily Mail article claims from Saturday 14th June
On Saturday the Daily Mail ran a story with the headline ‘208,000 passports handed to migrants in one year: One reason that there’s a massive backlog’.
The article began with the assertion that “A surge in applications from migrants is fuelling the Passport Office crisis” and “A record 207,989 foreigners were handed citizenship last year – a huge rise on the 82,000 seen in the year 2000.”
The article is misleading and seeks to apportion blame for passport delays to new British Citizens.
The Daily Mail article goes on to state that “once citizenship is granted, a first passport application usually follows” (our italics). A representative of Migration Watch is quoted as saying “The moment you become a British citizen you can get a British passport and I suspect many of those 207,000 will have and that is certainly something that adds to difficulties.” (our italics).
The article also states that ‘Whistleblowers say first-time applicants are pushed to the back of the queue as Passport Office staff try to get to grip (sic) on the crisis”. Later on the article states “adults who booked face-to –face interviews were directed elsewhere to allow staff to concentrate on fast-track renewals”.
To review, 208,000 passports were not given to migrants in one year, that figure relates to people granted British Citizenship. A spokesperson for ‘immigration and asylum think tank’ Migration Watch suspects many new citizens will have applied for a passport, but there is no data available to suggest that ‘a surge in applications from migrants is fuelling the passport crisis.’
And by the article’s statements, even if new applicants had all decided to apply around the same time they would be at the back of the queue, where it is impossible to hold renewals up.
On Wednesday the Prime Minister was asked about the ‘passport crisis’ at Prime Minister’s Questions he said that there were “300,000 extra applications (for passports), which is normal at this time of year”.
In the summer there are more passport applications, as people seek to go on holiday. But if the figure of 300,000 extra applications is normal at this time, what is causing delays?
The article talks about the experience of one passport office worker, “We are just worn out, really worn out, and it’s been going on for far too long. A woman in my team burst into tears because of the pressure.”
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) says that the current crisis is caused by major job cuts and office closures over the past five years.
A letter the union sent to the Passport Office Chief Executive points out 22 interview offices and one application processing centre have closed in recent years and 315 staff, one tenth of the workforce, have lost their jobs. It also notes staff are battling a backlog of almost half a million cases.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "The passport office is failing holidaymakers because of a political decision to cut staff and close local offices.”
Worryingly, the Express ran an identical story to the Daily Mail’s on Sunday.
Why are the Daily Mail and Express seeking to blame migrants for this issue?
The language used in the article is emotional and at a time when people; passport applicants and passport office staff are feeling the consequences of the delays, it is dangerous. To talk of people being “handed British citizenship” is disingenuous.
194,344 people in 2012 and 177,878 people in 2011 became naturalised British Citizens, so contrasting the quoted figure of 208,000 with the figure of 2000 has been done to try and show a big increase, when the reality is very different.
Elements of the UK media are too keen to use immigrants as a scapegoat for problems in society. Stories like the one in the Daily Mail are written deliberately with this aim in mind. Show Racism the Red Card encourages everyone to be on the look out for stories like this.
For an interesting look at statistics about Naturalisation as a British Citizen, click the link to see a briefing from the Migration Observatory