The purpose of this case study is to examine how asylum seekers in Ireland are affected by the Irish media’s coverage of the conditions in the direct provision centres that the majority of asylum seekers are accommodated in, and by the coverage about the weekly personal allowance that each asylum seeker receives. Specifically explored is the media’s influence on shaping the public’s perceptions, attitudes and knowledge through this coverage, and how this affects asylum seekers. Finally, the underlying societal, structural and ideological factors influencing the media’s coverage are examined, with a view to explaining how and why media organisations choose to report on these matters in the way they do.
This research is merited in the context of the hardship that the ongoing economic crisis is exerting on much of Ireland’s population and the previous research and historical events that have connected economic hardship with the kind of increases in xenophobia and racism which asylum seekers appear to be increasingly subjected to.
The research design combined one-on-one interviews with professionals and former asylum seekers, a content analysis of newspaper coverage, and a survey measuring Irish media consumers’ knowledge about the direct provision centre accommodation and the personal allowance. This design was chosen to not only allow an in-depth analysis of the issues, but to allow the triangulation of the data – thereby increasing confidence in both the validity of the results and the conclusions drawn from them.
The findings indicate that the Irish media’s coverage has much scope for improvement, that better media monitoring is advisable in order to understand how different organisations cover this phenomenon, and that certain terminology used freely in society is problematic.
In practical terms, the results emerging from this study will aid any organisation working to improve the lives of asylum seekers by generating new data that can be used to either directly campaign for change, or to serve as a basis for future research.