BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Programmes: Panorama  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Panorama
Reporters hit back at criticism
John Ware
John Ware defended the programme
Panorama reporters John Ware and Claudia Murg have responded to criticism of the programme by Home Secretary David Blunkett and the Guardian newspaper in the form of two letters which were published in the paper on July 25 and 28 respectively.

Click on the links below to read the text of the two letters.

John Ware's reply
Claudia Murg's reply


John Ware's reply

"First the politics (A return to Powellism, July 24). For the home secretary to suggest that my programme, The Asylum Game, may have been part of a Powellite agenda is grotesque.

The programme was not about race, though Mr Blunkett could not have known that because he wrote his article before transmission. Rather, it illuminated the chaotic management of the system as it attempts to deal with record numbers of asylum applicants and, above all, the abuse which even he has admitted is "very widespread".

I have lived most of my adult life in inner London. My own family is a melting pot. All my children have gone to multicultural schools which every day promote common values of decency and tolerance, which I celebrate.

It is not "Powellite" for the BBC to facilitate such a debate. It is our duty as the nation's public service broadcaster

John Ware
I cannot imagine how impoverished Britain would be without immigrants. However, polls show the public want the record increases in asylum seekers to form part of a wider debate about the overall levels of immigration which the overstretched infrastructure of this country can accommodate.

It is not "Powellite" for the BBC to facilitate such a debate. It is our duty as the nation's public service broadcaster. I need no lessons from Mr Blunkett about how asylum can "literally [be] a question of life or death" for some.

We portrayed this with first hand testimony in the programme. I'm also proud to have won this year's Amnesty International award for best factual documentary on behalf of Panorama.

Now to the facts. Last January, our undercover reporter posed as an asylum seeker at Harwich where she was fingerprinted. When her application was rejected in June, she posed as another asylum seeker in another false name.

Mr Blunkett claims the system did catch our reporter. We said it didn't

John Ware
Multiple applications of this kind are a prevalent form of abuse which the Home Office says it is countering with an automatic fingerprint system. Mr Blunkett claims the system did catch our reporter.

We said it didn't and provided documentary evidence. His charge that we had misled viewers "wilfully undermining confidence that the asylum system works" was taken from a shoddily researched Home Office statement attacking BBC's asylum day and Panorama - again before transmission.

We provided the Home Office with the rebuttal evidence by 4pm. The home secretary chose to ignore it, sadly so too did the Guardian.

The examples he gives to support his claim that the programme was "poorly" researched are devoid of the careful qualifications within which each set of statistics was presented, precisely to avoid exaggeration and alarm."
John Ware,
BBC Panorama


Claudia Murg's reply

As the undercover reporter for Panorama's Asylum Game, I want to respond your criticisms (Leaders, July 25).

As well as exploring the deficiencies of the asylum system, I wanted to further public understanding of the difficulties faced by the Home Office.

That is why I chose to make an in-country application, as most applicants do; to assume a different identity and nationality (a well known problem); not to turn up for the interview (a classic problem); and to make a second application in a different name.

Contrary to the claims of both David Blunkett and Beverley Hughes, the much-vaunted fingerprint checks, designed to catch multiple applicants within minutes, failed to catch me until after I had announced I was working for the BBC.

To be fair, the Labour government inherited a disastrous situation at the immigration and nationality department, the worst being the loss of many highly qualified staff whose redundancies kicked into place before the "paperless IND" materialised.

When the much trumpeted "do-it-all" computer system was scrapped, the trained workers were gone. A massive recruitment campaign began, but it takes time to find and train people for the job.

My job as a journalist is to report what happens as it happens. And, controversially or not, this is exactly what I did

Clauduia Murg
This all contributed to the chaos which does, despite Blunkett's protestations, still pervade the system. As an immigration interpreter since 1995, I was an independent witness to hundreds of encounters between asylum seekers and the various agencies they come into contact with.

But also, as a freelance journalist, I attended parliamentary debates and sessions of the home affairs select committee, and I spoke to refugee organisations, refugees, asylum seekers and legal and illegal immigrants throughout the country.

This year, for Panorama, I made my own journey through the system.

All of this brought home to me two things - that the system is in disarray, and that there is abuse on a scale that few might believe.

I need hardly add that among the principal victims are those genuine refugees whom no one would seek to deny a place of safety.

Their applications are becalmed in a clogged-up system. My job as a journalist is to report what happens as it happens. And, controversially or not, this is exactly what I did.
Claudia Murg,
BBC Panorama

Panorama: The asylum game

Features

Related stories

Background

Reviews

Feedback
See also:

24 Jul 03 | Politics
Blunkett attacks BBC asylum day
Links to more Panorama stories are at the foot of the page.


 E-mail this story to a friend

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes