The Daily Express used a report into benefits claimed by immigrants for its front page story on Tuesday, but appears to have ignored many of its findings in the process.
The Migration Watch report 'Economic characteristics of migrants in 2014' used government data to break down benefit claims by the country a claimant was born in.
It was used to back up the paper's claim that immigrants were "milking benefits" and claiming substantially more than those born in the UK.
— Neil Henderson (@hendopolis) July 20, 2015
The Express story carried a comment from Conservative MP Peter Bone, who told the paper: “It would appear that while most migrants come here to work, a disproportionate number are coming for benefits.”
Yet the Migration Watch report the piece was based on clearly finds the majority of out-of-work benefits are claimed by those born in the UK.
It also found migrants are more likely to be in work than people born here.
The report said: “Claims by people born abroad (are) overall well below the levels of those born in the UK in younger age-bands... steadily increasing to around parity from 55 years of age onwards.”
The Express story also highlights a disproportionate level of child benefit claims amongst those born outside the UK.
Child benefit is available to those responsible for a child under 16, or under 20 if they’re in education and training.
However, the Migration Watch report’s authors are clear that it is likely that migrant child benefit claims are informed by lower income rather than a higher number of children.
They wrote: “Child benefit claims follow a not dissimilar pattern overall, (when) comparing with tax credits... greater prevalence of tax credits claims among migrants is likely to derive from lower incomes rather than a higher proportion with children.”
The Express story also highlighted a higher proportion of housing benefit claims amongst migrants, especially in middle age.
Only those who need help paying rent if they’re on a low income or who are out of work receive housing benefit.
It’s not available for a mortgage, and it’s not available to those with significant savings.
Migration Watch’s figures broke down benefit claims into the percentages claimed by different nationalities.
With the report finding migrants to be more likely to be employed in the first place, the figures suggest that migrant workers are more likely to be in low-paid work for longer than UK-born workers.
This fact is certainly not hidden in the report. The authors wrote: “… housing benefit claim rates (are) around or above UK-born levels for the largest age-groups by number, despite a higher employment rate.”
So while it is true to say that migrants are more likely to claim housing benefit, this is because they are more likely to be employed in low-paid jobs than those born in the UK.
And they’re more likely to remain in low-paid work for longer, requiring help with housing costs later in life than those born here.
Figures for migrants from the top fourteen economies of the EU, including France, Spain, Germany, and Ireland show that for almost every benefit, claims are well below those made by people born in the UK.
These facts were sidestepped by the Daily Express.
And for casual readers of front pages and first paragraphs, a fair conclusion would be that migrants are claiming benefits they are not entitled to.
A spokesperson for the Migrants' Rights Network, which works for the rights of all migrants, told The Huffington Post UK: "The key thing to point out is that having a higher rate of benefits participation is not the same as being a burden on the state.
"Although East Europeans work mostly in lower wage occupations and are more likely to be in receipt of in-work benefits, the fact that they have very high employment rates, means that they still make a positive contribution overall.
"The key is the net impact, so when we look at everything together the high employment rates, offsets the impact of their lower wages.
"Research from University College London points out that during the 2001-2011 period, recent migrants from Eastern Europe had an estimated positive net fiscal impact at approximately £4.9 billion."
And users on Twitter have pointed out the inconsistencies too.