Scouts disappear in immigrants 'plot'
By Aidan Mcgurran 10/08/2007
Thirteen scouts are feared to have used an international jamboree to enter Britain as illegal immigrants.
Nine youngsters from Asia and Africa never arrived at a campsite in Essex where the movement's centenary was being celebrated.
Another four vanished during the 12-day jamboree. Police have ruled out suspicious circumstances.
The 13 boys and girls - aged between 12 and 24 - are from Bangladesh, Uganda, Sri Lanka and Nigeria. A police spokeswoman said: "It might be they have gone off to see other places in Britain, such as London. Equally, we cannot rule out that they might have come here to start a new life and want to stay.
"They are here legally on visitors' visas. But those visas will run out, so we are trying to locate them as quickly as possible."
More than 40,000 scouts from all over the world gathered at Hylands Park in Chelmsford to celebrate 100 years of scouting.
Simon Carter, of the Scouting Association, said: "We are working with the police, who say they do not believe the disappearances were suspicious."
He added that all scouts who attended the jamboree had to register their names and addresses and would have travelled to the UK with their group leaders.
Mr. Carter said of the celebrations: "It has been fantastic, with 40,000 people having the time of their lives. It was a multi-cultural melting pot."
38 million youngsters from 216 countries make up the entire Scout and Guide movement - and from this year all scout groups within the UK have to allow in girls.
The above story from yesterday’s Mirror is disturbing for a number of reasons. It had already appeared online in the Mail and attracted the usual ‘I knew that would happen’ comments. We expect such a story to appear in the DM as it has a clear agenda to fill its pages with as much dirt about foreigners and immigrants as possible to pander to its readers prejudices and stir up racial hatred.
However, the Mirror has a better reputation for fairness in such matters. Whilst it must be conscious that a sizeable number of its readership is similarly prejudiced or xenophobic, it does take a less sensationalist stance. This is why this was a disappointing article. It even made its way to the Editorial comment section with a glib joke about the scouts ‘being prepared’ a reference to the motto of the Scout Movement.
This is sloppy journalism at best, crude scaremongering at worst.
The problem with the article is that this is clearly a non-story. Even if it is accepted that 13 people have overstayed their visa entitlement, this works out as 0.00035% (based on the 40,000 participants including the number of UK scouts).
It may seem like a throwaway tale, but there is a cumulative effect when taken into account with all the other stories such as carp and swan-eating migrants.
The Mirror tends to go through phases of mediocrity and dumbing-down. At times it can lead the rest of the tabloids with brave editorials (Iraq for instance) but on other occasions it can become obsessed with sales-enhancing celebrity features (The Beckhams coverage every day). It is to be hoped that this story was a minor blip in the silly season, and not a change of emphasis.