11992-15 Khan v The Sun

    • Date complaint received

      15th February 2016

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 11992-15 Khan v The Sun

Summary of complaint

1. Shoaib Khan complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Sun had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Illegals have landed”, published on 22 October 2015.

2. The article reported that boats carrying refugees from Syria had arrived illegally at a British military base on Cyprus, and that there were “fears” that the base had been “targeted as a back door to the UK”. It stated that there appeared to be some confusion over whether Cyprus or Britain had responsibility for the refugees. The article was also published online.

3. The complainant said that it was wrong and inaccurate for the newspaper to refer to refugees as “illegal”. He said that the Syrian refugees referred to in the article had exercised their legal right to seek asylum in another country; the refugees and their actions were not illegal.

4. The newspaper said that the migrants were illegal because they had trespassed onto a British sovereign military base, and had not arrived through an approved port. They had therefore arrived in the UK illegally, and the Ministry of Defence had confirmed this position. Furthermore, the newspaper considered that the migrants’ status as refugees had not been established; many of them would subsequently claim asylum, but some would be refused. It acknowledged the importance of correctly distinguishing between refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants.

Relevant Code Provisions

5. 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.

iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Findings of the Committee

6. It was accepted that it is not illegal to claim asylum in another country. However, the article had not stated that the migrants’ claim to asylum was illegal; it had claimed that the manner in which they had entered UK territory was illegal. The article had made clear that the migrants were not legally permitted to be on the base, but once they had claimed refuge they were granted temporary permission to stay. Read in its full context, the reference to “illegals” in the headline was not significantly misleading. Nonetheless, 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.


7. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required


Date complaint received: 14/12/2015
Date complaint concluded: 15/02/2016