The Churches' Commission for Racial Justice(part of the ecumenical Churches Together in Britain and Ireland) has raised serious concerns about the BBC's Asylum Day programmes, broadcast last Wednesday. The Panorama programme in particular which relied upon a wired BBC reporter disguising herself as a Moldovan asylum seeker "did little to focus on the true plight of vulnerable people caught in the asylum system," said Rev Arlington Trotman, secretary of the CCRJ. He said: "Everyone knows there are deep flaws in the Government's handling of asylum policy. The BBC could have used this opportunity to present the truth about people seeking asylum. Instead it seems to have further reinforced popular misconceptions about benefits and numbers. "There was virtually nothing about the conditions that create asylum," added Rev Trotman. "Britain supplies weapons to regimes that persecute and suppress opposition. It is repression and conflict that exacerbates the flow of people seeking asylum. Poverty and lack of fair access to markets also creates migration." Churches Together in Britain and Ireland has recently produced 'Asylum Voices,' a book that highlights the extraordinary circumstances that force ordinary people into seeking asylum. These include death threats and witnessing the murder of relatives. "The instinct to survive is one we all share," said Rev Trotman. "We invite the BBC to report the work of Churches and humanitarian organizations as they urge the Government to work with western industrialized powers and multi-nationals for international policies that address the root causes of forced migration: persecution and poverty." CCRJ is asking the Government to de-politicize asylum policy and practice by creating an accountable multi-agency NGO-led asylum commission. This includes rejecting the arbitrary use of detention, except where there is clear and compelling evidence of a criminal offence or a clear threat to Britain's national security interests.
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