The Daily Express varied from its usual front page topics of weather chaos and miracle cures Wednesday, instead sparking a furious backlash for referring to children born in the UK as "hidden migrants."
The paper published findings from the pressure group Migration Watch - whose chairman Sir Andrew Green was recently handed a peerage from David Cameron - suggesting that official figures "hide the true picture" of immigration in the UK and blaming a "foreign family baby boom" for a gargantuan invasion of "new arrivals and their offspring."
No miracle cures on Daily Express front page tomorrow, back to racism instead. How 'nice' for their 'lovely' readers pic.twitter.com/3ST25Kw2Sc— Dan Hollingsworth (@D_Hollingsworth) November 25, 2014
Government figures "fail to include births to immigrant parents," Migration Watch states, claiming that migrants and their children "accounted for 3.8 million out of a 4.6 million expansion in numbers in the UK between 2001 and 2012."
Apparently, unless annual migration is drastically cut, Britain will need "10 new cities the size of Birmingham" to accommodate this extra population.
The Express appeared to fail to understand that children born to immigrants living in the UK, are in fact British, rather than being "hidden", and instead appeared to suggest that the offspring of migrants will always remain "foreign."
The Office for National Statistics, which provides the nation's official population figures, says it does not count the count children born in the UK as migrants "in accordance with UN international standards."
Migration Watch has now distanced itself from the Express' headline, acknowledging that the term "hidden migrant" is "not appropriate".
Somewhat unsurprisingly, the tabloid's front page was greeted with horror and disbelief as many explained that under the Express' guidelines, they would themselves be classed as "hidden migrants" along with a whole host of notable names including the Royal Family, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage's children, Nick Clegg and his children, Winston Churchill and Ukip immigration spokesperson Steven Woolfe.
Just realised according to Daily Express definition I am a "hidden immigrant" (my mum was American). Feel stateless. http://t.co/jEcFpcULhd— Patrick Wintour (@patrickwintour) November 26, 2014
Apparently my two daughters born in London are "hidden migrants" to the UK, according to the Daily Express. http://t.co/69CjIsudr5— Jimmy Wales (@jimmy_wales) November 26, 2014
Incredibly Farage, who is married to a German woman, even backed the Migration Watch report, with Ukip stating that it's not "the children that are the problem, it is hiding them."
The spokesman added that the Eurosceptic party leader would never talk about his children "either way."
84 per cent of population growth between 2001 and 2012 - or 3.8 million - was due to migration: http://t.co/qPwn7erstg— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) November 26, 2014
Dear @Nigel_Farage Two of your own children called "hidden migrants" (Express) & figure in 2001-12 "due to migration" pop stat you tweet!— Sunder Katwala (@sundersays) November 26, 2014
While the Express was not alone in publishing the Migration Watch report, the borderline "open racism"of its headline caused the most contention.
Many took to Twitter to advise that the paper not to confuse the status of British-born citizens.
I enjoy a properly batty Express front page as much as anyone, but "Non-Immigrants Not Counted In Immigration Stats" is a stretch.— Andrew Mueller (@andrew_mueller) November 26, 2014
I know the Express is pretty much a comic book for morons but it's "hidden immigrants" front page story is outright fascism. Nasty stuff.— Mr_Pukeko (@Mr_Pukeko) November 26, 2014
The crypto-nazi newspaper @Daily_Express today attacks British children on its front page. 'Hidden migrants', to use their parlance.— Andrew Connelly (@connellyandrew) November 26, 2014
*Tomorrow's Daily Express front page. *As in "tomorrow belongs to them". pic.twitter.com/f7OTnXrtYA— Clay Harris (@mudlarklives) November 26, 2014
Seeing the Express front page it's clear the concepts of a healthy birth rate & peak population are alien to MigrationWatch & its supporters— Joel Taylor (@JoelTaylorMetro) November 25, 2014
Now, in an open letter to Richard Desmond, the owner of Express Newspapers, published on The Huffington Post UK, Labour launched a strong attack on the paper for making a "highly offensive" claim.
Shadow cabinet minister Lord Stewart Wood, one of Ed Miliband's closest allies, said on Wednesday afternoon the paper was making a "clear implication" that the children of immigrants who are born and raised here are really immigrants too.
"I cannot see any quote from Migration Watch to justify the headline that these immigrants are 'hidden', so I assume it was the view of the Daily Express," he said.
He said: "Your paper has long argued that members of the British public have legitimate concerns about the impact of immigration – a position shared by the Labour Party and Ed Miliband. But suggesting by implication that people who are born and brought up here are somehow un-British or foreign because one or both of their parents emigrated here from abroad surely is not legitimate, but rather is inaccurate and, to many, highly offensive."
The Labour peer added: "I also find it curious that a paper owned by someone whose maternal grandparents came to this country from Ukraine in search of a better life would be happy to give this impression about the descendants of immigrants."