BBC hits back after attack on asylum special

Another row has broken out between the BBC and the Government after the Home Secretary slammed last Wednesday’s Asylum Day programmes, writes Wale Azeez.

David Blunkett criticised the special edition of Panorama – The Asylum Game – while immigration minister Beverly Hughes attacked You the Judge, which put members of the public in the position of immigration officials dealing with asylum cases.

Blunkett accused Panorama of “playing into the hands” of a “Powellite anti-immigration agenda”. Writing in The Guardian, he said: “Consciously or not, Panorama has played into the hands of those who use the issue of asylum to attack immigration per se.”

He accused Panorama writer and presenter John Ware of being “wrong on fact” and of taking as read material by anti-immigration pressure group Migration Watch. Ware called Blunkett’s accusation “grotesque”.

A BBC spokesperson hit back: “Panorama 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 Mr Blunkett and his ministers have admitted is ‘very widespread’. It is not ‘Powellite’ for the BBC to facilitate a debate about asylum. It is our duty as the nation’s public service broadcaster.”

Home Office minister Hughes said of You the Judge: “Applying the immigration rules is about upholding public policy agreed by Parliament.

Making decisions on asylum claims is not a gameshow.”

Broadcaster and Commission for Racial Equality chair Trevor Phillips said Panorama’s coverage was “a worrying example of sensational and biased reporting”.

In a letter to The Guardian, Phillips wrote: “I was asked to be part of the day’s programming and thought better of it on the basis that I did not feel that human suffering and tragedy are appropriate subjects to be turned into some kind of public show.”

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