Nina van Haren, Iris Wierstra, and Toon van Meijl: The Politicization of the Immigration Debate in the Netherlands Boat Refugees and the Possible Solution of Border Control


This article analyses public discourses in the Netherlands about the arrival of boat refugees in Europe. By comparing three Dutch newspapers with received knowledge about migration in academic literature, we compare and contrast policies advocating border control in order to stop the arrival of boat refugees with scientific evidence about these proposed solutions. We argue that discrepancies exist between policy suggestions and the evidence provided by migration scholars since increased border control generally is argued not to lead to a decline in migrants, but instead to riskier routes and more deaths. Accordingly, we contend that not evidence but a nationalist discourse spreading anxiety influences the political debate. In order to corroborate this argument, we conducted a content analysis of various newspaper reports on boat refugees and their framing of the proposed policy solution of border control. This demonstrates that media are not systematically instigating moral panic as migration scholars would often like us to believe. On the contrary, much diversity is found in newspapers regarding the representation of boat refugees and many similarities may be found in arguments provided by media and scholars.