BBC policy on use of term migrants ignored in WS report about Israel

h/t BF

As readers may be aware, the BBC sometimes appends a footnote to relevant articles concerning its use of the term migrant.

“A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.”

That editorial policy was also the subject of an article published on the BBC News website in August 2015.

However, listeners to the January 2nd edition of the BBC World Service radio podcast “Africa Today” heard presenter Bola Mosuro repeatedly use terminology that does not conform to that editorial policy.

Mosuro:”Coming up: Israel gives over thirty thousand refugees and asylum seekers just three months to leave the country voluntarily. If not, they will face indefinite jail terms or be forcibly repatriated.” [emphasis added]

In addition to her use of partial language to describe migrants, Mosuro’s claims that they “face indefinite jail terms” or being “forcibly repatriated” are inaccurate. Repatriated of course means being sent back to one’s own country but that is not what the programme entails.

In August last year Israel’s High Court of Justice unanimously passed a ruling on the issue.

“The High Court of Justice on Monday allowed Israel to continue with its controversial practice of deporting illegal migrants to an unnamed third country, but said the government cannot jail those who refuse to go for more than 60 days.

The judges unanimously rejected a petition by human rights groups against the deportation practice, but stressed that the deportations could only to be carried out with the agreement of the migrants.

The court also ruled that the Israeli authorities had to first ensure that the third country was safe.”

Introducing the item itself (from 00:56), Bola Mosuro again employed language that is not in line with the BBC’s stated policy of using the term migrants and also contradicted her own previous claim of repatriation. [emphasis in bold added]

Mosuro: “We start in Israel where more than 34,000 refugees or asylum seekers have been served notice. The refugees, mainly from Eritrea and Sudan, were told by the immigration and border authorities yesterday they have just 90 days to leave the country. If they do not leave voluntarily, the Israeli authorities will jail them or deport them to either Uganda or Rwanda – two nations they’ve made agreements with. The details of these deals have not been made public to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, which has expressed concern. Walpurga Englbrecht, who is the UNHCR representative in Tel Aviv said what they do know.”

Englbrecht’s explanation further clarifies that Bola Mosuro’s use of the term ‘refugees’ is inaccurate and misleading.

Englbrecht: “So those who are going to leave voluntarily will receive a grant of $3,500 and also a paid air ticket. And those who are targeted are those without a pending asylum claim – meaning that they have never applied for asylum or they were rejected – and those who submitted claims for asylum after the first of January.”

BBC audiences later heard Englbrecht promote unverified claims found in media reports which have since been refuted by the Rwandan government.

Englbrecht: “And unfortunately there has been further developments according to which – again, what has been reported in the media – it is said that Rwanda did agree to also accept those who are going to be forcefully relocated to this country.”

When the BBC reported last month on similar schemes in Europe, it described the people offered grants as migrants or asylum seekers rather than refugees.

“[Germany] has long offered migrants and asylum seekers financial incentives to leave its shores, and until 28 February 2018 it’s prepared to pay out extra. […]

According to Dr Jeff Crisp, a Fellow at the Chatham House think tank, so-called “voluntary return” programmes for asylum seekers have been around for at least 20 years, and everywhere from Australia to the UK and Canada has tried them. […]

Sweden currently offers grants of 30,000 Krona (£2,653; $ 3,550) for lone migrants and 75,000 for families, paid as a lump sum in US dollars.

And in spring 2016, nearby Norway made headlines for adding a 10,000 kroner “bonus” onto its existing rewards package for the first 500 asylum seekers to apply.”

Not for the first time we see that BBC coverage of stories concerning migrants in Europe and in Israel lacks consistency.

Related Articles:

Differences in BBC coverage of migrants in Europe and in Israel

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BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, listeners to the early edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday‘ on January 17th heard two very similar opinions on the story of US aid donations to UNRWA from NGO head Jan Egeland and from the UN agency’s spokesperson Chris Gunness.

In a later edition of the same programme, Gunness was interviewed again (from 02:09 here) by presenter Shaimaa Khalil.  

Gunness began by telling listeners that: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Gunness: “The reason why UNRWA’s budget runs out when it does is because the number of refugees we serve goes up and up and up because without a political resolution of their plight, their children remain refugees and that is the case with UNHCR refugees and other refugee populations around the world.”

While Gunness has been promoting that claim for years, it bears closer examination because, as pointed out by Steven J Rosen:

“Unlike its sister agency, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which is responsible for millions of non-Palestinian refugees worldwide, it [UNRWA] does not have an active program for “local integration” of refugees where they now reside nor “resettlement” in third countries.”

Rosen notes that:

“In 1950, its first director told the General Assembly that the “agency has decided that a refugee is a needy person, who, as a result of the war in Palestine, has lost his home and his means of livelihood.” His definition made no reference to descendants.

Not until 1965, fifteen years after its creation, did an UNRWA commissioner-general decide, against objections from the United States government, to create “an extension of eligibility, subject to need, to the third generation of refugees (that is, to children of persons who were themselves born after 14 May 1948).” […]

In 1982, or thirty-two years after its creation, UNRWA took another step forward by extending eligibility to all generations of descendants. It did so by obtaining a General Assembly resolution instructing UNRWA “to issue identification cards to all Palestine refugees and their descendants” without any limitation on how many generations of descendancy this practice would continue. […]

UNRWA went still further in 1992 by adding a provision that those descendants of Palestine refugee males who “are eligible to register for UNRWA services” and are registered with UNRWA, should be “referred to as Registered Refugees or as Registered Palestine Refugees” though they do not meet UNRWA’s own standard of having lived in Palestine prior to May 1948.”

Regarding Gunness’ claim “that is the case with UNHCR refugees”, Rosen notes:

“UNHCR confers derivative refugee status on the basis of family unity where there is a relationship of dependency. “As a matter of general practice, UNHCR does not promote the reunification of … grandchildren… unless they can be determined to be eligible under the principle of dependency.” This can mean financial dependency, “but also taking emotional dependency into consideration.” […]

It is true that, UNHCR’s basic standard is the nuclear family and that subsequent generations are given derivative refugee status only on an exceptional basis while UNRWA automatically grants grandchildren and great-grandchildren refugee status. But UNRWA defenders such as Gunness can argue that the two agencies are guided by the same basic principles.”

Unchallenged by Khalil on that important point, Gunness (who in his previous interview claimed to “maintain the highest standards of neutrality”) continued:

Gunness: “And the refugees we serve are not only just going up in number but the vulnerabilities they face are also intensifying. In Syria there’s this cruel war raging into its 7th year. In Gaza we see a blockade – a collective punishment in violation of international law – and in the West Bank we’ve seen 50 years of Israeli occupation.”

That Gunness failed to offer any legal basis for his allegations concerning the blockage and refrained from mentioning the terrorism that made it necessary is not surprising. As former UNRWA senior official James Lindsay has noted:

“In 2008, UNRWA issued comparably fewer calls for engaging Hamas. Instead, it has focused on criticizing the Israeli blockade of Gaza […]. In this regard, the agency echoes the Hamas view of the conflict with Israel. For example, when UNRWA ran out of fuel supplies in late April–early May 2008, it implied that its shortage was caused by the Israelis (who were blocking deliveries to Hamas but not to UNRWA) rather than by Hamas’s actions (which included allowing demonstrators to prevent delivery of fuel to UNRWA as well as intimidation of the Petrol Station Owners Association, which subsequently refused to distribute fuel delivered to Gaza by Israel). This propensity to echo Hamas views extends to other issues as well.”

Gunness continued:

Gunness: “What we need to resolve UNRWA’s budget problems is a political settlement. We need a just and durable solution for 5.3 million Palestine refugees who to this day, 70 years after their original exile and dispossession, have remained exiled. They remain stateless and in many cases they are deeply vulnerable. That is what causes UNRWA’s budget problems. UNRWA is an expression of the political failure of the political echelons to bring dignity and resolution to a community that for far too long has been deprived of those things.”

As also noted by Lindsay, UNRWA’s idea of a “political settlement” echoes Palestinian claims of ‘right of return’:

“Regarding the resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem, UNRWA’s sympathies are not with resettlement or “repatriation” to a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, but with “repatriation” to Israel.”

Shaimaa Khalil made no effort to question Gunness on the issue of the estimated 2 million people defined as Palestinian refugees who hold Jordanian citizenship before going on to ask:

Khalil: “But what do you say to the point being made that the United States has the right to know where the money is going and the point that UNRWA has poorly planned the resources?”

Gunness’ answer to that question repeated claims he made in the first interview of American ‘praise’ for UNRWA during a visit by its commissioner-general to Washington last November. Khalil went on:

Khalil: “Just on the point that your budget is over a billion dollars – this is just $125 million [sic] that’s being withheld. Don’t you think that other countries could step in and provide that amount?”

After Gunness answered that UNRWA is “going after other donors”, Khalil asked him “how will this shortfall affect your operations?” to which (despite having claimed in the previous interview that “what is at stake [is] nothing less than the security and stability of the Middle East”) he replied:

Gunness: “Well let us be clear. The commissioner-general said in his statement that we intend to robustly defend our mandate and we are determined that services will not be impacted. And that remains our position. It is premature to talk about cuts. We will do everything I can…we can a) to go after additional funds and b) to protect the mandate and make sure that the dignity of these people living in such fragile and vulnerable circumstances can continue to be protected with the services that we deliver.”

As we see, not only was Gunness not asked any in-depth questions about UNRWA’s record and agenda that would help BBC audiences understand this story better but his inaccurate and misleading claim concerning hereditary refugee status and his politically motivated allegations concerning Israeli counter-terrorism measures were not challenged at all.

Moreover, not only was the same interview rebroadcast in a later edition of the same programme (from 00:35 here) but the BBC World Service also chose to promote a slightly edited version of it on social media.

Related Articles:

BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part one

BBC News report on UNRWA funding story omits relevant background

BBC World Service amplifies UNRWA’s political campaigning yet again

Lyse Doucet’s blatant political propaganda on BBC WS WHYS – part two

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ provides a platform for UNRWA’s political campaigning

 

BBC News tells half the story of UN campaign to end statelessness

On November 4th the BBC News website published an article titled “UNHCR seeks to end statelessness in 10 years” about the launch of a campaign titled “I Belong“.statelessness art  

In so far as it goes the article is fine; an accurate and impartial news report informing BBC audiences about the UNHCR initiative. What is interesting is the part of the story the BBC elected not to tell: the fact that the UN’s campaign to end statelessness does not include Palestinian refugees and their descendants deliberately kept stateless by Arab League countries as part of a political strategy initiated over half a century ago.

“In the year 1959 the Arab League accepted decision number 1457 and this is its text: “Arab states will reject the giving of citizenship to applicants of Palestinian origin in order to prevent their integration into the host countries”. This is a shocking decision, which stands in stark opposition to international norms on all subjects concerning the treatment of refugees during those years and particularly during that decade.” 

As AFP’s Nina Larson reported:

“The UN’s refugee agency launched a campaign Tuesday to eradicate statelessness within a decade, but UNHCR refrained from including Palestinians in the effort, citing the need for a separate “political solution” to their plight. […]

“Every 10 minutes a new stateless person is born,” UN refugee chief Antonio Guterres told reporters in Geneva, describing the situation as “absolutely unacceptable” and “an anomaly in the 21st century.”

With its “I Belong” campaign, UNHCR aims to highlight the “devastating life-long consequences of statelessness” and push countries to rectify their laws to ensure no person is denied a nationality. […]

The [UNHCR] report does not count the case of the Palestinians, since the UN General Assembly had recognized the State of Palestine, Guterres said.

The problem for many of the 4.5 million of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and the millions more living as refugees around the world is that the State of Palestine has yet to approve its nationality laws, he said, insisting that this “very specific situation” required a “political solution”.

Apparently the BBC did not consider it necessary for its audiences to know that stateless Palestinians will remain pawns in a decades-old battle of political warfare initiated by their Arab League ‘brothers’ and backed by the UN.