A BBC radio drama funded by the British taxpayer provided practical tips on how to make the illegal journey from Africa to Europe at the height of the migrant crisis.
The BBC was criticised last night over the programme, broadcast in Somalia and Kenya, which featured one character advising another to cut her hair short and travel light for the treacherous Mediterranean boat crossing.
The would-be ‘migrant’ was told: ‘Whatever is difficult will end up being easy.’
Later, another character was advised: ‘This current time is the best opportunity to reach Europe.’
A BBC radio drama funded by the British taxpayer provided practical tips on how to make the illegal journey from Africa to Europe at the height of the migrant crisis
The drama, A Better Life Than Today, follows the fortunes of a group of Somali youths as they try to make their way in life.
It has more than two million BBC Radio Somali listeners and is produced by the Corporation’s charitable arm, BBC Media Action, which receives £89.8 million in handouts from the Government.
BBC Media Action is not funded by the licence fee, but by the Government’s foreign aid budget.
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said: ‘If the BBC have been involved in a UK Government-backed programme which has in some way encouraged emigration to the UK and Europe from Africa, that would be seen as highly inappropriate with the current migrant crisis.’
Though other characters in the Somali serial do warn against illegal migration, a constant theme is the allure of a more prosperous new life in Europe, though the BBC and the Foreign Office insisted that the purpose of the programme was specifically to dissuade people from migrating.
In one episode, a female character who is thinking of making the journey, seeks advice from a friend, asking: ‘So what do the women who make the journey… look like?’
She is told: ‘They carry large suitcases! I would advise you to carry a small bag with a few items… If you have long hair, cut it shorter. You won’t have anywhere to brush it… whatever is difficult will end up being easy.’
The woman replies: ‘What am I scared of? I, too, must go there.’
On another occasion a male character tells a young woman: ‘This current time is the best opportunity to reach Europe… when the seas are calm.
All in all, migration can change your life.’ Other characters warn of the dangers on the perilous journey to Europe, one declaring: ‘People should honestly forget considering this terrible journey that jeopardises their lives.’
An audience poll to decide whether or not one central character should migrate voted against.
A Government spokesman said: ‘It is entirely wrong to suggest that this programme is urging Somalis to migrate; in fact one of its central messages is about the dangers of migration.’
A BBC Media Action spokesman said: ‘This drama highlighted a range of issues around the subject of migration, including the negative consequences.’
The Government credits BBC Media Action with helping to defeat ebola in West Africa by providing medical advice.