Saturday 17 September 2016

"Her story seemed to sum up the crisis facing the world"

Last year, Fergal Keane found a living symbol for the migrant crisis [even though she was in no way representative of the overwhelmingly male-dominated mass flow of people at that time] - a charming, English-speaking wheelchair-bound girl from Syria called Noujain Mustaffa (or, as Fergal called her, "a disabled 16-year-old with big dreams"). 

She has cerebral palsy, yet, Fergal reported, brings with her "gifts, the great gift of inspiration". "A nation that loses a child like Noujain is losing its best", said Fergal.

In a series of reports, Fergal followed her progress from the Hungarian border through Slovenia to Germany, where she met her brother. "Joy needs no translation," he said on showing their reunion. 

On Thursday night's BBC One News at Ten brought us an update. Fergal tracked her down in Germany and told us of her "new life" in Cologne...going to school, speaking fluent German, "embracing the normal". She has found, as Fergal put it, "freedom". She is now full of smiles. 

"But this is not a story with an uncomplicated happy ending", continued Fergal to the noise of men chanting. "Resentment of migration is growing in Germany", especially following Cologne. "The far-right has gained politically. It would refuse entry to people like Noujain". 

Cue a clip of Christer Cremer of Alternative für Deutschland [presumably representing that "far-right"] saying that Syrian refugees should have been helped nearer to home. 

"But", immediately continued Fergal, "like many Syrians, Noujain longs for home. Here she is in Aleppo before the war [wearing pink sunglasses]. And this is her city now [a scene of utter devastation]." 

Fergal's latest report then ended with the following - a message to Syria from Noujain: 
Hello, my home. I really miss you. But don't worry. You're just really, really, really sick. But I'm sure you're going to get better. And when you do I'll be right back.
A similar report from Fergal Keane has now been posted on the BBC News website:

Plus, Thursday night's The World Tonight on Radio 4 featured an audio version of the other reports from Fergal, prefaced by presenter Razia Iqbal:
In just a moment we'll hear from a spokesman from the far-right Alternative für Deutschland party, which has done well in state elections recently on a platform of opposing Chancellor Merkel's open door policy towards migrants. There are more than a million in Germany. And, of course, every individual refugee has there own story of hardship. But occasionally, for whatever reason,... 
[...and that reason was that the BBC and Fergal Keane had decided to push it over several days and Fergal had poured all his considerable emotive reporting skills into it...] in particular captures the public's imagination. Amid the huge numbers of people who were on the move across Europe last summer, Fergal Keane met a 15-year-old Syrian girl trying to make it to Europe, unaccompanied... 
[...though Fergal's subsequent report soon makes it clear that she was accompanied by her older sister and Fergal says she was 16-years-old at the time, so that's two factual errors in Razia Iqbal's introduction...]

...and in a wheelchair. Her story seemed to sum up the crisis facing the world. She did eventually make it to Germany. What's her life like now?
After Fergal's report, Razia said:
That was Noujain Mustaffa, speaking to Fergal Keane, underlining what appears to be a common attitude that people who fled conflict are doing just that to be safe. The majority want to return to their countries of origin. The fear that they may not can often be the source of tension in the way they're greeted in the countries they end up in.  Germany has taken in more migrants than any other European country, but not everyone is happy about it. Police say there have been around 700 attacks on asylum accommodation this year, including 57 arson attacks.......etc
She then said:
I've been speaking to Christer Cremer who represented the right-wing political party Alternative für Deutschland in Cologne.....
[Mr Cremer is having a busy week with the BBC].

Question 1 was 'very BBC':
You represent a party that has an anti-migrant agenda. Do you accept that the agenda that you are putting forward is potentially linked to creating these kinds of attitudes on the street?

Mr Cremer replied they always oppose and condemn violence and that they simply give a democratic, legal voice to people's anger at Mrs Merkel's policy. Razia, in response, simply restated her first question:
Isn't it possible to see the sorts of messages that you're putting forward as a political party is legitimising the anti-migrant sentiment among people who may not even be your supporters but are actually absorbing that as a prevailing narrative inside Germany?
He could have said something along the lines of "I refer the honourable lady to the answer I can some moments ago" but didn't. He just restated his first answer as well.  

She went on: 
In what do you think that she is breaking the law. As the Chancellor of Germany, as the most powerful country inside the European Union, she is presenting a case for being compassionate towards people who need help, and this is part of the core value of being a member state of the European Union. 
Well, you've certainly done very well through the ballot box recently. Do you think that that's partly because you have an anti-migrant, anti-Muslim manifesto? 
Your success at the ballot box does seem to herald a shift rightwards in Germany. Do you see that as something that is...healthy?
Mr Cremer got the full 'BBC treatment' there. And we've had the full 'BBC treatment' over this story too.


  1. Just had to switch-off "From our own correspondent" on R4 this morning. Introduced as a report on the forthcoming German elections. the first 5 minutes featured a eulogy to Abdul, a hard-working, green-eyed, happy, Syrian welder now loved by all his workmates, inspiring them, doing jobs Germans don't want to do, etc., etc., etc.,.

    We really are treated like fools by being forced to pay for this propaganda.

    1. That was Jenny Hill, doing her usual thing. She must have a thing about "green-eyed" migrants/refugees:

  2. Deliberately manipulative propaganda, holding up outliers as shining examples of the majority. Mark Easton told us the deliberately take a different view of how they're supposed to influence and educate the public than Messrs. Dacre or Murdoch, but it's hard to see any moral high ground here.

  3. We've had enough of the propaganda. No one believes it any more, Fergal, even if it's occasionally true! :)


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