The dramatic increase in migration to Europe since 2011 has become a key focus of the European press. The United Nations’ (UN) Global study on smuggling of migrants reported that in 2016 about 375,000 people took smuggling routes across the Mediterranean to Europe and that about 480,000 people journeyed from sub-Saharan countries to North Africa. A recent Europol report estimated that 90% of the migrants reported to have crossed the Mediterranean were aided by smugglers. Libya has witnessed some of the biggest increases in migrant smuggling and human trafficking in the region since 2011, and with it a steep increase in media coverage. During this time, news articles started to appear worldwide with dramatic headlines using terms such as ‘wave’ and ‘flood’, alongside photos of boats of migrants and refugees. Migrant smuggling and human trafficking emerged as hot topics. This paper presents an analysis of the ways in which migrant smuggling and human trafficking were represented in English news media from around the world reporting on the European migration crisis – specifically, on migration from Libya to Europe – from 2011–2017. It argues for greater scrutiny of how the media frames migration, and for increased support for independent journalism on both sides of the Mediterranean.
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