Migrants Organise on BBC R4 Moral Maze: Moral imagination and migration

October 31, 2016
Zrinka Bralo

The BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze is described as ‘combative, provocative and engaging live debate examining the moral issues behind one of the week’s news stories’. This episode was presented by Michael Buerk, who has been hosting the programme since it began in 1990. Four regular panellists discuss moral and ethical issues raised by a recent news story. Michael Buerk delivers a preamble launching the topic, then a series of ‘witnesses’ – experts or other relevant people – are questioned by the panellists, who then discuss what each witness said.

Our Chief Executive, Zrinka Bralo, was the first witness in the programme aired on 27th October 2016. The news story that prompted the debate was the closure of the Jungle camp in Calais and resettlement of several thousands of its inhabitants, many of them children.

The panelists were: Michael Portillo, former Conservative Minister; Giles Fraser, a priest and journalist; Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the RSA  and Tim Stanley, The Telegraph journalist and historian.

You can hear the programme in full on BBC iPlayer.  It is also available on iTunes for those of you who are not in the UK.

We invite you to listen and share your comments below.

“The demolition of the Jungle camp in Calais this week has highlighted a moral paradox at the heart of the debate about migration. The media are full of heart-rending stories of the suffering, endurance and hope of individual migrants – each one of them a compelling cry for our help and understanding. Yet, despite our growing collective knowledge of the plight of migrants, our attitude to migration seems to be hardening. Why? In many other areas of our society the opposite is true. Take, for example, the case of mental health. As more people overcome stigma to talk about it, we know more about its impact, our empathy with suffers has increased and people are now being treated more humanely. It’s a virtuous circle that doesn’t seem to work for migrants. Is this a failure of our moral imagination? How can we, at the same time, feel moved by the plight of one refugee but indifferent to the plight of thousands of refugees? Should we be trying to turn what we can see to be right in individual cases into general moral principles to be applied across the board? Or is it sometimes legitimate and desirable to reduce morality to numbers? What it may be rational to do for one individual, it may be irrational to do for thousands. When the German Chancellor Angela Merkel reacted, like most of us, with horror to the terrible picture of the body of a drowned toddler being carried from a Greek beach, she agreed to take in hundreds of thousands of Syrian asylum seekers. Now many in Germany and across Europe are questioning whether that was the right and moral thing to do as countries struggle to accommodate the new arrivals. Was that a triumph of moral imagination or the worst kind of emotionally driven gesture politics? Moral imagination and migration. Witnesses are Matthew Parris, David Goodhart, Dr Wanda Wyporska and Zrinka Bralo.”

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