Dropping the "I Word" - Refugee Council
August 26, 2014

Dropping the “I Word”

Are you tired of people being referred to in the press and by politicians as ‘illegal immigrants’?

We are, and that’s why we’re asking certain media outlets to ditch the phrase.

The issue of immigration is extremely controversial, complex, and is always high up the news agenda. That’s why it’s vitally important that reports on immigration issues strive to be accurate, precise and to avoid the use of loaded terms.

While a person’s actions can be illegal, it is not possible for a person themselves to be illegal. As well as being inaccurate, we believe that incorrectly suggesting someone is illegal is dehumanising and may generate animosity towards them.

In April 2013, one of the biggest news wires in the world, the Associated Press announced it was dropping the phrase ‘illegal immigrant’. A month later, the LA Times followed suit, and others, including the New York Times, are discouraging use of the phrase.

Sadly, UK news outlets have yet to make similar commitments.

After we got in touch with the Guardian, they asked for their readers’ views on the issue. Crucially, the article noted that the paper’s style guide editor—the person responsible for calling the shots on the language used—seemed to agree that the phrase should be dropped.

Other outlets have yet to respond.

We will continue to push the press towards dropping the “I word” in the pursuit of both accuracy and fairness. It should have no room in quality journalism.