Migrants were represented as a “threat” to Greek Cypriot society in the media during 2011-2013, according to a study by the University of Cyprus (UCY).
But by 2014 and 2015 they were represented in more humanitarian way, the study showed. The study was conducted by the Genetic Social Psychology Lab of the Department of Psychology at the University of Cyprus in the framework of the RE.CRI.RE project (a Horizon 2020 funded project)
The study aimed at identifying the representations of migrants and refugees in the Greek Cypriot context through analysing the media from 2011 to 2015.
It focused on articles published from July 2011 to December 2015 on the issue of migration (migrants and refugees) in four national newspapers covering almost the entire political spectrum, Haravghi, Phileleftheros, Politis, and Simerini.
According to the main preliminary findings, there was a noticeable increase in the number of articles published in the Greek Cypriot newspapers that studied the topic of migration in the years 2014 to 2015 compared to 2011 to 2013.
The RE.CRI.RE team explained that the change appears to be not only quantitative but also qualitative, noting evidence of a discursive shift in the articles studied.
More specifically, migration was represented as a predominantly local issue of concern in the years 2011 to 2013. Articles published during these years focused on migration and/ or migrants as a “threat” and more specifically they emphasised competition between Cypriots and migrants for jobs and for access to social benefits.
Migrants were represented as a burden to the welfare system and to the economy of the state more broadly. In 2014 and 2015 data referenced migration and the refugee crisis as an international/ global issue as opposed to a local issue. They focused on the refugee crisis, burden sharing amongst European states, and on the role of the EU and other international actors (e.g., the UN).
Another theme that appeared through the data analysis was the representation of immigrants as a “threat”. An initial analysis of this topic indicated that immigrants were represented to constitute both a “realistic” and a “symbolic” threat to Greek Cypriot society.
Realistic threats were mostly related to migrants being responsible for unemployment and for deepening the economic crisis by being a burden on the state’s finances. Symbolically, immigrants were often represented as incapable of integrating with Greek Cypriot society because of keeping too close to their own traditions, religion and way of life and that this disrupted the social cohesion of society.
Interestingly, the representations of immigrants as a source of threat are more prevalent in years 2011-2013, compared to 2014 and 2015 when migrants and refugees are represented in a more humanitarian-oriented ways.
In parallel to representations of migrants as a threat, the study pointed to anti-racist discourses and/ or pro-migrant arguments. Such discourse and argumentation lines aimed to counter ideas of migrants and refugees as threat acknowledging that racism is perhaps an important phenomenon within Greek Cypriot society which had to be tackled.
RE.CRI.RE. researchers emphasised an increasing legitimisation issue for the EU as an institution and as system of cultural and political values due to its perceived inability to adequately manage migration in general and specifically from 2014 to 2015. The EU was recurrently constructed as a negative or positive archetype for Cyprus’ own response to migration and the refugee crisis.
For example, the analysis noted that pro-migrant discourses emphasised that Cyprus should apply EU guidelines and respect migrants. However anti-immigrant discourses claimed that other EU countries apply stricter migration policies and thus succeed maintaining migrants and refugee numbers lower than Cyprus.
The qualitative analysis of representations of migrants and refugees in the Greek Cypriot press is ongoing and the final results are expected to be announced at the 13th International Conference on Social Representations “Epistemologies of everyday life” hosted in September 2016 in Marseille, France. (CNA)