Ruling

08772-16 Lozza v Daily Express

    • Date complaint received

      30th March 2017

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 08772-16 Lozza v Daily Express

Summary of Complaint

1. Rebecca Lozza complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Express breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “12,000 Asylum Seekers Vanish”, published in print on 28 September 2016, and “REVEALED: Britain’s immigration crisis laid bare as 12,000 asylum seekers VANISH”, published online on 28 September 2016.

2. The article reported that “up to 12,000 asylum seekers are on the run”. It said that, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, an investigation had shown that of 77,440 asylum cases in progress, one in six skipped their meeting with the Home Office “and vanished”. It quoted from a report from December 2015 in which the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration had found that there were 10,000 asylum claims where the claimants were not in contact with the authorities, or had absconded. It also quoted a Home Office spokesman who denied that 12,000 individuals were “missing”, and said that the figure included “asylum seekers who did not turn up for their first interview. Therefore the figure includes individuals who attended subsequent meetings”.

3. With the exception of the headline, the article appeared online in the same form as the print version.

4. The complainant said that the headline was inaccurate, and that there was no evidence to substantiate the claim that 12,000 people had “vanished”, or were “on the run”. She said that an unspecified number of the 12,000 people who missed their first appointment went on to attend subsequent appointments. The complainant said that, as the Home Office had not been able to confirm to the newspaper exactly how many of the 12,000 who missed their first appointment had been traced, it did not have access to all the information and was not in a position to state as a matter of fact in the headline that 12,000 people had vanished.

5. The newspaper said that the 12,000 figure related to the number of asylum claims that were “on hold”, and that this was made clear in the first line of the article. It said that it had asked the Home Office for the number of asylum seekers who had “gone missing since 2010”, and the request was answered with a link to previously published data which referred to “absconders”. It said that it asked the Home Office how many of these “absconders” had been traced, but it could not provide an answer. However, the article had included the Home Office’s position that the figure included individuals who had failed to turn up to their first meeting, but had attended subsequently.

6. The newspaper said that the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration had said in December 2015 that he was told there were approximately 10,000 asylum claims where the claimant and dependants were not in contact with the Home Office, and that this was reported in the article. It also highlighted a comment made by the former head of NHS Digital, who said that 10,000 “immigrants” were unaccounted for. The newspaper noted that it had not received any complaint from the Home Office about the article.

Relevant Code Provisions

Clause 1 (Accuracy)

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.

Findings of the Committee

8. The newspaper made a FOI request to the Home Office asking how many of those seeking asylum in the UK had “gone missing since 2010”. In response, the Home Office said that the data the newspaper had requested was already accessible, and provided a link to published date which it said “shows all open asylum claims were there is an open absconder breach or the applicant has absconded prior to the first decision on their case”. This published data, from which the 12,000 figure was derived, also referred to those individuals as “absconders”. The newspaper was entitled to adopt that term in the article, particularly where the Home Office had declined to provide any detail as to the numbers it said had subsequently turned up for interview.

9. The article reported the Home Office’s position that the 12,000 figure included those who turned up to subsequent interviews, as well as the fact that it was unable to confirm precisely how many had done so. It also quoted Charlie Elphicke MP’s position that the public needed to know if the Government had lost track of these asylum seekers, and highlighted a statement from the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration who said that there were 10,000 asylum seekers “who were not in contact and had absconded”.

10. In this context, the claim that “up to” 12,000 had “vanished” and were “on the run” was not significantly misleading. There was no breach of Clause 1.

Conclusions

11. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

N/A

Date complaint received: 28/09/2016
Date decision issued: 09/03/2017