Friday 18 September 2015

Praise for Caesar, then a dagger in his back

There could hardly be a greater contrast between Matthew Price's defensive reflections on the migrant crisis, stressing the human interest angle to the story, and those of Newsnight's Mark Urban (in his latest blog postFive new reflections on Europe's migrant crisis), which take a much more measured and analytical approach.

Mark Urban is a fine journalist. I've long been an admirer of his. (Ah, Time Commanders!)

Plus, he doesn't always sounds as if he's in tune with 'received BBC opinion' either (which helps). 

I remember a recent edition of Today where the BBC's Central Europe correspondent Nick Thorpe and John Humphrys were of one mind, it seemed, over the ineffectiveness of the Hungarian fence. A mocking tone entered JH's voice during their short chat. So it could almost have been that discussion which Mark had in mind (though it probably wasn't) when he wrote:
While many people have argued that fences "will never work", the early signs are that Mr Orban's policy of sealing the Hungarian-Serbian border is already having the effect he wanted. It channels people to registration areas (from where they can continue to Germany or elsewhere) and dissuades others from trying to cross.
And the opening section of his piece seems to blow a huge hole in most recent BBC (and other) reporting:
Syrians are a small minority of those seeking refuge in Germany
While the tragedy of those fleeing Syria's terrible civil war has caught the popular imagination, such people formed just 20.1% of those seeking asylum in Germany from January to August 2015. 
If you add together the Balkan arrivals (from Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, and Macedonia) they amount to twice that, 40.2%. The figures for those granted refuge are quite different because many of the applications from Balkan countries are rejected. 
It's hard to avoid the conclusion that tens of thousands of people from relatively peaceful countries have joined the trek to Germany, which is seen as one of the most desirable places in Europe to live. 
To put it more bluntly: they are taking advantage of and increasing this crisis. Statistics (attached report in German) compiled by the German authorities show that while the number of Syrians went up by 177% during the first nine months of 2015 (compared with the same period last year), the rise from Albania was 631%. 
These statistics help to explain both why Chancellor Angela Merkel has faced growing internal dissent about an open door policy (even one that is just intended for Syrians) and tensions with neighbours Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. 
Well, that's something you very rarely (if ever) hear on the BBC, isn't it? 

If true, it's something that should have been very widely reported across the BBC. That it hasn't been surely says a lot about the BBC.


I only say "if true" because I don't know if it is (even though I'm strongly inclined to believe it is)...

...and because the following passage in Mark's article rings serious alarm bells with me about his reporting (for the first time ever):
One other point worth noting - the German asylum figures rather undermine Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban's characterisation of the migration as a Muslim one. 
Of course the stats don't give people's faith and Syrian or Albanian refugees are a mix of Christian as well as Muslim. But Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq combined amount to one third of the total, whereas people from either majority Christian or largely secular nations (ie Albania and former Yugoslavia) make up much of the rest. 
What troubles me here is that, in the only other example I've found of the BBC reporting this angle of the crisis - from another Newsnight reporter, incidentally (Secunder Kermani) - the BBC reporter stated, using German statistics, that "Kosovans and Albanians are together responsible for more asylum claims so far this year than even Syrians".

And if there's one thing I know about Albania is that it's a majority Muslim country (with - despite what Mark said - only a small Christian population) and that Kosovo is getting on for 100% Muslim. 

For Mark to be right, using the examples he used, there would have to be a staggering number of Serbs and Macedonians joining the exodus (though Macedonia has a large Muslim minority too, so that might not help his case!), completely overwhelming the Kosovans and Albanians (and Bosniaks)...or pretty much the entirety of Albania's small Christian minority and very few of its Muslim majority must be migrating northwards...

(...and his Newsnight colleague, Secunder Kermani, didn't mention Serbs and Macedonians at all in his report on 'asylum seekers' arriving in Germany...)

Or maybe Mark is relying on the 'missing migrants' from his percentages to boost his non-Muslim stats.

He cites 20.1% for Syrians and 40.2% for people from Albania and the former Yugoslavia, leaving (as the mathematically-gifted of you will realise) 39.7% unaccounted for - though a proportion of those will be, by his own account, Iraqis and Afghanis (so much more likely than not to be Muslim).

Are the rest - by my reckoning, taking into account Mark's 'one third' figure (for Syrians, Iraqis and Afghanis), some 28.4% [!]) - simply to be assumed to be overwhelmingly Christian then?

And even if they were, would that counter the clear evidence that I draw from Mark and Secunder's own stats about the other 70+%: that they are mostly Muslim?

So, is Mark Urban quite as immune to BBC 'received opinion' as I've always believed him to be?

Or am I missing something? (which isn't impossible.)

(Get your calculators out!)


  1. " Et tu, Brute "

  2. Urban is a voice of relative sanity in an ocean of banal sentiment.

    As for the issue of the figures for Muslim migrants - another factor to take into account is that (as several reporters including BBC reporters) have made clear, fake Syrian passports are for sale.

    Just heard on the six o'clock Radio 4 news refer to the migrants as "the disposessed" - given so many are coming from safe countries like Albania and Macedonia and are not being forced out of their countries, this is clearly a biased expression.

  3. Kosovans and Albanians being in the mix destroys the entire argument for letting all the 'refugees' in as penance for US/UK intervention in Iraq and Syria, no?

    In any case, Urban is allowed to produce a single report that essentially contradicts the entire BBC narrative because they now have something to point to as proof of balance in the long term. We heard this often from Beeboids back in the day: "There, see? We reported it! The BBC isn't biased." Sort of like how Andrew Neil is meant to balance out 7000 Leftoids by himself.

    You have to wonder, though, how much Urban had to fight with his editor to get this out. We know there are a handful of sane, decent journalists at the BBC, waiting until they get the odd chance to report objectively and honestly. As with closet conservatives, they generally keep their heads down and don't rock the boat. It's surely a struggle for them to be heard and to get something published against the grain.

  4. Is Mark Urban able to enlighten us with figures for how many of the Muslim invasion are young men on their own, and how many are families with women and children?


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