Most people only think about foreign migrant workers when the media runs another story about a severely abused maids, trafficked worker or a robbery committed by foreigners.

Stories on maids abusing children, running away, or workers killing their employers provide sensational reading. Very often, the migrant population in general is judged as causing problems.

These tragedies make easy headlines but encourage negative stereotypes and a culture of criticism and blame on foreign migrant workers in general. The negative perception of foreign migrant workers creates a barrier of distrust and fuels hostility towards them. It also creates anxiety in the general population.

Negative media coverage causes a barrier of mistrust between the public and foreign migrant workers
– the media can help improve public awareness of the contributions of foreign migrant workers and create a favorable and positive perception, especially among young people.

How can positive media coverage impact NGO work?

It would be difficult to get young social workers and counsellors to be interested in working in services for the migrant population if there is a cloud of pessimism and despair over migrant issues. Involvement in such needed services presently carries a stigma. Working in a setting with a positive image affords professional respect for young people and this in turn will help them become effective helpers. This is where positive stories about foreign migrant workers can help.

How can positive media coverage impact the work of public authorities?

A big hurdle facing the migrant sector is how to sensitize enforcement authorities to treat foreign migrant workers fairly and with understanding. Sensitizing front-line officers is an important content in the training conducted by relevant agencies.

And this is where the media can help in highlighting positive stories about worker-employer relationships and giving a genuinely human ‘face’ to the foreign migrant worker.

We need to present more varied and positive story lines of foreign migrant workers, and to showcase persons who are compassionate and capable. We need to promote success stories of foreign migrant workers.

The Migration Works Campaign 2015 is a step in that direction. We are acutely aware of the complex issues and problems related to foreign migrant workers, but see the need for a positive approach amidst a culture of blame and anxiety.

The Migration Works Campaign 2015 Team
1 April 2015