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Artillery Row

The unreliable auntie

Why does the BBC so often fail to inform?

The BBC has a curious talent for producing unintended effects. You watch a programme, or read an article, and information is presented to you — but rather than being informed you end up being suspicious. “What am I meant to do with this information?”

For example, here comes an article on “refugee trauma” by Osob Elmi and Pete Simson. There has been a lot of talk, the authors write, about “how much it costs to keep [refugees] housed once they arrive.” “There is another cost, however,” they continue, “And that is to the mental health of those who have suffered severe trauma in the process of travelling to the UK, according members [sic] of Bristol’s largest growing migrant community.”

I’m sure that’s the case! Emigration, as a refugee, adds trauma to the trauma that has led one to depart. Still, the piece raises some questions that I’m not sure the authors meant to be asked. Among the Somali Bristolians they spoke to is a woman who “was six months’ pregnant when she arrived in the UK in April 2014, seeking a better life for her children.” She “sought asylum and waited for seven years for her legal documents to be processed, with no financial support.” 

Now, I understand people travelling in search of a better life. I did the same, after all, and I’m sure my life prior to emigrating was much easier than this woman’s was in Somalia. But either the authors have done her a cruel injustice by excluding information relevant to her case or she has contradicted herself. People “seeking a better life” are not refugees. Refugees are people fleeing persecution on the basis of their race, religion, nationality, sex, sexuality or political opinions. That is an important difference — but one the authors have rather carelessly obscured. That this woman had three children, on which basis she was apparently “granted her British citizenship”, and then brought five of her six children in Somalia to the UK only makes this presentation of her story more annoying.

But it is not the worst example in the piece. Another woman, we are informed, “is calling for the government to implement a “safer” process to help families and couples to reunite.” Elmi and Simson tell us:

Her daughter Amal Abdi was murdered by her son-in-law Abdirashid Khadar in Bristol in 2015 after he travelled to the UK illegally. 

Wait. Excuse me? 

She believes the trauma of the journey “desensitised” him. Mrs Ahmed said: “[Abdi] saw people dying — people who died who were thrown off the boat and into the sea. He saw people who were hungry in a deserted place ending up eating flesh. When they entered Libya, he was held captive for a long time underground, his throat was slit. So, when he saw all that he became desensitised. He doesn’t see killing as anything important so it became easy for him to kill my daughter.”

It is beyond doubt that travelling from Africa to Europe is a traumatic experience. It is also understandable that a mother would try to make sense of the death of her child. Still, I fear that this example is downright insulting to the refugees who undergo a traumatic experience and do not become depraved calculating killers.

More detail is useful here. Abdirashid Khadar, a 22-year-old Somali man, separated from Amal Abdi, a 21-year-old, soon after his arrival in Britain. (This was in 2015, and the pair were married in 2010, which would have made them 18 and 17 at the very oldest.) She asked him for a divorce. Khadar lured her to their flat by saying that relatives had visited. Then he stabbed Amal repeatedly with three different knives. Some reports suggest that she was also strangled and bitten. She was several months pregnant at the time. 

Is this sort of man you want entering your country?

At no point, according to the police, did Khadar express remorse. I ask you — whatever suffering he experienced before his arrival in the UK, is this sort of man you want entering your country? It is presented to us as an argument for making immigration easier but it looks very much like the opposite. If Khadar had not gained entrance to Britain, after all, this appalling crime would not have happened. What a strange — indeed perverse — example for the authors to choose. 

Again, as if this was not enough, the authors provide no evidence that Khadar sought asylum. It is very understandable that men and women want to join their spouses in their new host nations but that does not make them refugees, and the subject of the article is “refugee trauma”.

For the national broadcaster — funded by the taxpayer — to be fudging the difference is shameful. But it is also unsurprising. After all, to step outside of their biases and be clear about distinctions would be too informative.

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