Refugees in Europe and Their Image in News

Throughout the course of 2014 and 2015, the inflow of war refugees from the Middle East in the countries of Europe (the European Union mainly) has been steadily increasing. In the summer and autumn of 2015, it resulted in a series of revolts all around the recipient states and developing crises caused by the difficulty of coping with the huge number of newcomers (Migrant crisis: Migration to Europe explained in graphics, 2015). This report attempts to analyze the image of the refugees and migrants as demonstrated by the articles found on various news portals. The research questions for the analysis are:

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  1. What is the image of refugees present in the modern press? (Categories: threat, victims, refugees, migrants)
  2. What is the reported relationship between the refugees and the hosting states? (Categories: banned, aided, neglected)
  3. What are the visual portrayals of refugees in the news? (Categories: young males, women, and children, older people)

The analysis is based on both manifest and latent codes.

Sampling Strategy

Five articles found on five different news portals were sampled for this research. The purposeful sampling method was selected for the paper. The articles chosen for the research were evaluated based on several criteria. They had to focus on the migrants and refugees from the Middle East in Europe that occurred over the last few years and aggravated during the last several months. Moreover, the articles had to target the quality of life of the migrants and their relations with the recipient states in particular.

That way, the articles that mainly focused on the statistics and chronology of migration or its causes were deemed unsuitable to answer the chosen research questions. Besides, the articles were selected based on the news portals they came from. In order to diversify the research and present the data from various sources, the news platforms of the articles had to be different. The news portals of the articles analyzed in this paper are The Guardian, New York Times, NBC News, Huffington Post, and Aljazeera. This was done to ensure that the perspectives from several parts of the world are included in the research.


The five news articles used for this research were selected to cover different subjects of the refugee crisis currently faced in Europe. For instance, the article on Huffington Post targets the reluctance of the USA and participate in the issue more actively and provide shelters for more people from the warzone, whereas those on NYT and The Guardian discuss the overflow in Europe and the inability of the small European countries to accept hundreds of thousands of newcomers, and the report on NBC explores the clashes between the police and migrants in Macedonia (Graham-Harrison, 2015; The Associated Press, 2015; Wing & McGonigal, 2015).

In reference to the descriptions of the refugees, the articles can be divided into those who focus on the term “migrants” and those who prefer using the word “refugees”. While the latter is more to the point and has a distinct emotional content, the former is more general and can be used to depict the people affected by the military conflict directly or those who escape from their homelands for the sakes of the benefits of immigration to the wealthy Western European countries. Overall, the authors of the chosen articles tend to refer to the people flooding Europe as refugees (Table 1).

The only exception is the article on NBC News that particularly focuses on the clash between the people who do not come from the countries affected by war (such as Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq), but come from the other Middle Eastern states, as well as Asia and Africa looking for a better life (The Associated Press, 2015). Moreover, the refugees in Europe are portrayed as victimized individuals rather than a threat to the national security of the recipients. The article found on Aljazeera specifically concerns the effect the terroristic attacks in Paris had on the refugees staying there (Pizzi, 2015). The marginalized individuals are approached critically and are not associated with the terrorists. The same tendency can be observed in the other news articles as the authors attempt to describe the problem objectively without putting the blame on the refugees or the countries they are in currently. However, the present quality of life in the refugee camps is characterized as low.

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All the chosen articles mention that the refugees are neglected and have to survive in extreme conditions. The hosting states are not blamed for their attempts to channel the flow of the newcomers and put up fences or lock the boarders (the data about these actions is presented in Table 2 in the “Feared” column). Their behavior is explained in the articles as an attempt to regulate the chaotic movement of hundreds of thousands of people across their territories. As shown in Table 2, all the articles equally report the bad living conditions of the refugees, the aid provided to them, yet insufficient in many cases. Finally, the presence of visual portrayals of refugees as a latent code was assessed in Table 3. The findings show that the majority of the photographs used to support the news articles depict women and children, many also show young male refugees, and the number of photographs of older people is relatively small.


Analyzing the collected data, it is easy to notice that in the five selected articles focusing on the refugees from the Middle East flooding Europe these days the prevalent point of view portrays them as victims. The people fleeing to Europe are shown as victimized by their domestic governments that caused civil war and the emergence of ISIL. The current horrible living conditions of the refugees are the main focal point of the news reports. This approach shows that, in most cases, the refugees are not portrayed as the carriers of threat. However, the point of view that a huge number of Muslim individuals coming from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria in Europe may result in multiple dangers for the European population is also constantly discussed.

It is presented as biased and prejudiced. That way, the selected reports demonstrate a rather open-minded perspective and address the marginalized communities and their circumstances critically, shedding the light on all aspects of the crisis. None of the articles was noticed to put a blame on someone, although some of them included the commentaries of particular American and European political leaders evaluating them as xenophobic and Islamophobic. Discussing the photographs used to support the news articles (Table 3), one may see that the prevalence of the images of women and children (even though the numbers of men and women among the refugees are almost equal), is designed to eliminate the xenophobic moods and emphasize the innocence and harmlessness of the newcomers (Pecanha, Keller, & Lai, 2015; Wing & McGonigal, 2015).


This paper analyzed five news articles focused on various aspects of the refugee crisis currently happening in Europe as hundreds of thousands of displaced individuals from the Middle Eastern countries affected by war flee to Western states targeting those with stronger economies. The research attempted to evaluate how the refugees flooding Europe are described on the news in different countries, how they are reported to be treated in Europe, and what kind of visual characteristics they are given by the press. The research found that the refugees are portrayed as victims of their governments struggling to find stability. Their lengthy trip across Europe is shown as filled with challenges and discomfort as the European states fail to provide enough money to support hundreds of thousands of people. Finally, the pictures of women and children as the representatives of the refugees prevail throughout the news portals and position the newcomers as harmless and innocent.


Table 1

What is the image of refugees from the Middle East, as described in the press?

Portal Threat Victims Refugees Migrants
The Guardian 5 9 30 15
NY Times 0 4 16 4
Huffington 3 5 33 4
NBC News 3 4 2 25
Aljazeera 1 7 11 2

Table 2

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What is the reported relationship between the refugees and the hosting states?

Portal Feared Aided Neglected
The Guardian 9 6 6
NY Times 5 2 4
Huffington 2 4 3
NBC News 3 2 0
Aljazeera 0 6 2

Table 3

What are the visual portrayals of refugees in the news?

Portal Young males Women, children Older people
The Guardian 1 1 0
NY Times 1 3 0
Huffington 8 10 4
NBC News 2 0 0
Aljazeera 0 1 1

Reference List

Graham-Harrison, E. (2015). Still, the refugees are coming, but in Europe, the barriers are rising. Web.

Migrant crisis: Migration to Europe explained in graphics. (2015) Web.

Pecanha, S., Keller, J., & Lai, K. K. R. (2015). As Doors Close, Syrian Refugees Despair. Web.

Pizzi, M. (2015). Syrian refugees in Paris fear backlash after attacks. Web.

The Associated Press. (2015). Migrants Clash With Police on Macedonian Border. Web.

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Wing, N., & McGonigal, C. (2015). These Are the ‘Dangerous’ Syrian Refugees You’ve Been Hearing About. Web.

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