Victims or Intruders? Framing the Migrant Crisis in Greece and Macedonia

Ivo Bosilkov and Dimitra Drakaki

Journal of Identity and Migration Studies, Volume 12, Number 1, 2018


This article explores how the media shapes public attitudes towards immigration. The authors analyze how online news content about the migrant crisis is framed by media in Greece and Macedonia. They define framing as the way in which reality is organized by journalists and news organizations through their working routines, in order to provide the meaning of the story and capture the essence of the issue. The authors apply two overarching, contrasting frames of “security/threat” and “humanitarian/victim” in migration coverage in six print media outlets in both countries. They find dominant portrayals of refugees as illegal trespassers, potential terrorists and social burdens in both countries.

  • Macedonian news outlets followed a more traditional way of reporting on immigration, focusing on the illegality of the intruders and the perils for society. Most Macedonian articles employ negative framing of refugees, with 62 percent of articles portraying them as clandestines and social intruders of society. When the Macedonian press utilized the victim frame, it was mainly to portray the refugees as helpless (15 percent of articles) and victims of inadequate assistance. Political ideology of the publication did not seem to play a defining role in framing of immigration news.
  • Greek media approached the topic in more diverse ways, as political affiliation of the newspapers played a crucial role in editorial decisions. Half of the articles framed refugees as victims and focused on the perils of their journey, insufficiency of aid supply and poor rescue operations and the hard living conditions in refugee camps. In the Greek press the illegal frame was used 17.2 percent of the time, but almost only in the conservative and right leaning press.

The authors suggest that the variation between Macedonia and Greece is due to: differences between their media systems (Macedonian media are under much greater direct control of a right-wing ruling party); the policies supported by their respective governments; and the political and social consequences for each of the countries, with regards to the closure of the Balkan route in March 2016.