The Refugee Paradox: Unravelling Dutch Media discourse and the influence of policy

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The influx of Syrian refugees since 2015 and Ukrainian refugees since 2022 has been a major challenge for the European Union and its member states. The European Union has responded differently to the two groups of refugees through its policies. However, the European Union is not alone in this regard. Studies have shown that newspapers describe the two groups differently in their articles. Since, newspapers have a significant influence on public opinion, it is interesting to know how a discourse is constructed. Much research has been done regarding that, however, there is not yet research that examines whether policy shapes discourse. This is also for societal reasons interesting since it gives more insight in how people’s perspectives are shaped. Therefore, this thesis examines: 1) the discourse in the Dutch media regarding Syrian and Ukrainian refugees, 2) how these discourses differ from each other, and 3) whether these differences arise due to the completely different European migration policies. These questions are answered using two separate discourse analyses, one for each group and each separated in two time periods. The first analysis shows that the dominant discourse on Syrian refugees in the Dutch media discourse is the security discourse. There is, however, much variability per newspaper and per time period. The second analysis shows that the dominant discourse on Ukrainian refugees in the Dutch media is the humanitarian discourse. That discourse is the most commondiscourse for all newspapers included in the analyses, and for both time periods. A comparison on Syrian and Ukrainian refugees shows a different treatment by the EU, the Dutch government, Dutch citizens, and the Dutch newspapers. This thesis concludes that, by using the theory of Michael Foucault about discourse and power, the European migration policy partly explains this difference in discourses used for both groups.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen