11854-15 Khan v Daily Express

    • Date complaint received

      15th February 2016

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 11854-15 Khan v Daily Express

Summary of complaint

1. Shoaib Khan 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 “Illegal migrants flood EU”, published on 11 November 2015.

2. The article reported that migrants had made 1.2 million illegal entries into the EU that year. It stated that the EU border agency, Frontex, had reported that the total number of migrants for January to October had been four times that of the previous year, and had yet to peak.

3. The article was also published online with the headline “Why we need to get out of EU: More than 1 million illegal migrants flood EU this year alone”. Its subheading said “the true scale of Europe’s refugee crisis has been laid bare by figures showing that migrants have made more than a million illegal entries into the EU so far this year”.

4. The complainant said that it was not illegal to enter another country to claim asylum. He said that the vast majority of the migrants referred to in the article were refugees, and it had referred to “asylum” throughout. It was therefore inaccurate to describe the migrants or their actions as “illegal”.

5. The newspaper said that the article was based on a report by Frontex, the European Union border agency. It provided a copy of the report, which stated that “illegal border crossings at the EU’s external borders between January and October stood at an unprecedented 1.2 million”.

6. The newspaper accepted that it was wrong to use the term “illegal” to describe refugees. It said that the online article had referred to the “refugee crisis” in error; and it amended it to read “migrant crisis”. It also amended the headline so that it referred to “illegal entries”, rather than “illegal migrants”; and it appended the following correction:


On 03 December 2015 this article was amended. It originally referred to a 'refugee crisis'. Refugees have been granted asylum and cannot be 'illegal'. The headline originally said that 1 million illegal migrants had flooded the EU this year. In fact it should have said that there have been more than 1 million illegal entries into the EU this year. It has been amended.

7. The newspaper did not consider that a print correction was required as it did not consider that the article had been about refugees; it had concerned migrants who had either had their request for asylum refused or had not been eligible for asylum. The print article had not included the term “refugee”.

8. The complainant did not consider that the amendments to the online article were sufficient. The article in print and online had concerned people fleeing persecution whether or not the term “refugee” or “asylum seeker” had been used.

Relevant Code Provisions

Clause 1 (Accuracy)

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published. In cases involving the Regulator, prominence should be agreed with the Regulator in advance

Findings of the Committee

10. The article reported the findings of a Frontex report, which had detailed the number of illegal entries into the European Union at its external borders. It was clear from the article, including in its first line, that the migrants it referred to had not crossed EU borders at a legal point of entry.

11. There is a distinction between an individual’s immigration status and the legality of their entry into a country. It does not necessarily follow that because a person has entered a country illegally that they are deprived of a right to remain; they may be a refugee or they may be granted asylum. The Committee took this opportunity to draw to editors’ attention the potential for terminology to be misleading in reports on the immigration status of asylum seekers and refugees, and emphasised the distinction between those who are seeking asylum and illegal immigrants.

12. The article had not given the significantly misleading impression that the immigration status of the migrants had been established, or that their claim to asylum had been illegal. In this context, the references to “illegal migrants” in the headline and “refugee crisis” in the online article were not significantly misleading.

13. There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article in breach of Clause 1. Although no significant inaccuracies were identified by the complaint, the Committee welcomed the amendments to the online article.


14. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required


Date complaint received: 06/12/2015
Date decision issued: 15/02/2016