In the latest programme of the monthly series, Mishal Husain introduces dispatches from:
Vincent Ni on a Chinese man who, like him, has come to Britain and is in his mid-thirties - but there the similarities abruptly end. What does living here undocumented mean in practical terms and why does he do it?
With the approach of Holocaust Memorial Day, which this year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Adam Shaw reflects on the striking contemporary relevance of his own father's refugee status and escape from Nazi persecution in places as varied as a country estate in Northumberland and a "Lord of the Flies"-like "school" in Scotland. In a letter addressed to his father's grandchildren, he reveals how this child refugee managed to survive largely alone and ponders whether this story is as remote from our experience as we might first imagine.
Emilie Filou visits Pembrokeshire to meet the bug champions of St Davids and how an entomologist's start-up, created with her chef husband, is trying to influence how children think about what they eat. Can their bold ideas wreak a revolution in the city of the country's patron saint?
In Kent petrol-head Martin Gurdon ponders the reasons for - and implications of - today's teenagers not driving as much as previous generations.
And in Middlesbrough, Martin Vennard finds that while the town is proud of its explorer son 250 years on from James Cook's exploration of the Antipodes, it doesn't necessarily know a great deal about him. And that matters, he says, because Cook's life has significant contemporary relevance for today's Tees-siders.
Producer: Simon Coates
Japanese Justice and the Fugitive CEO
When Carlos Ghosn skipped bail in Tokyo last month the world was flabbergasted. Despite being under intense surveillance while out on bail, with undercover agents tailing him whenever he left his house, the ex-Nissan boss somehow hot-footed it onto a private jet and made it to Lebanon. Now that the dust has settled, the spotlight has been turned onto what some call, Japan’s "hostage justice" system. The country has an enviably low crime rate which is often attributed to a small income gap and full employment, but Rupert Wingfield Hayes says many people are just terrified of being arrested.
Lebanon, Carlos Ghosn’s temporary bolt hole, is a country often caught up in all manner of international rows and intrigues. It is also one of the many countries in the Middle East where Iran determinedly exerts its influence. The Iranian general Qassem Soleimani helped to spread that influence through the Shia Islamist political party and militant group , Hezbollah. So in the wake of Soleimani’s killing in a US drone strike, Hezbollah has been determined to mourn him. Lizzie Porter attends one such memorial event in the south of the country.
In India there have been violent demonstrations against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, or CAA. The new law gives amnesty to illegal immigrants from three neighbouring countries, but excludes followers of Islam. So Indian Muslims whose family might have lived in the same spot for generations, but don’t have the paperwork to prove it, could suddenly find themselves stateless. Protesters, including students and Bollywood stars, say the law serves the ruling BJP party’s goal of remaking India as a Hindu homeland and Yogita Limaye says many citizens are troubled – including non Muslims.
China has also been under the spotlight for its treatment of a mostly-Muslim sector of its society; the Turkic-speaking ethnic minorities in its far west. The Chinese state has detained an estimated one million people in high-security prison camps across Xinjiang since 2017 – most of them ethnic Uighurs. Beijing says that these are vocational or re-education camps. But has China’s state control reached new levels of persecution and is it being extended beyond its borders? Claire Press met with several Kazakhs north of Almaty who’d been imprisoned in China.
It may be a global leader in solar and wind power, and last year sold more electric cars than the rest of the world combined. But China is also the planet’s biggest consumer and producer of coal. It has to cut back drastically to bring carbon emissions to a peak by 2030 and fulfil a pledge made as part of the 2015 Paris agreement. However Beijing is still approving new coal-fired plants as the economy slows. On a trip to Inner Mongolia Robin Brant discover that people are not always keen to make the transition to cleaner alternatives.
Iran's Divided Loyalties
The Iranian government held an official funeral on Tuesday for General Qassem Soleimani killed by a US airstrike in Baghdad. There were emotional speeches in the general’s home town of Kerman in southeast Iran and so many mourners turned out that at least 50 were killed in the crush. On Twitter the Iranian Foreign Minister had a message for President Donald Trump: "Have you seen such a sea of humanity in your life?... Do you still think you can break the will of a great nation and its people?" But were the huge crowds really a sign of national unity? Lois Pryce who wrote a book about crossing Iran on a motorbike and who has friends both inside the country and across the 2 million strong Iranian diaspora finds public opinion far from unanimous.
Ever since independence from the USSR almost three decades ago, there’s never been an Uzbek election which outsiders were willing to call free or fair. But this time was meant to be different. On the 22nd of December, Uzbekistan ran its first elections to the parliament and local councils since the country’s long-running authoritarian president Islam Karimov died three years ago. Uzbekistan has long been one of the world’s most repressive countries and under Karimov voting was more of a ritual than an exercise of choice. But some hoped that the man who took over, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, (Meer-zee Yoi -yev) might allow some real reform. A record 25 million dollars were earmarked to run the elections, and Ibrat Safo found a real buzz in the air but wondered what lay beneath.
Germany has long been considered a leader in renewable energy – a model even for others to follow with its subsidies for wind and solar. But its so-called “Energiewende” (Ener - GEE -vender ) or energy transition” from fossil fuels to renewables has stalled and it still relies on coal for 40 per cent of electricity generation. That will be phased out within the next eighteen years and nuclear energy will end too by 2022 and some worry whether there will be enough energy to heat homes and keep the lights on. Caroline Bayley has been to one former coal town in the industrial Ruhr region which is under-going its own energy transition.
The gargantuan Palace of the Parliament built by Romania’s communist-era dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu, still looms over the centre of Bucharest. About one-fifth of the capital was bulldozed to make way for the so-called House of the People, its satellite buildings, and the grand avenue leading up to it which was supposed to be a longer, wider version of Champs-Élysee in Paris. Forty thousand residents were forcibly rehoused. The building was long reviled as an evil fortress, a symbol of oppression but it now houses the country’s parliament and Romanians are learning to love it and put it in their Instagram feeds says Tessa Dunlop.
More and more tourists are travelling to the Amazon rainforest to drink – and later vomit - a foul tasting liquid containing a natural hallucinogen called Ayahuasca [a-ya-wass-ka]. Indigenous people have been brewing the concoction for thousands of years, mostly for religious or spiritual purposes. It’s considered a medicine, a way to heal internal wounds and reconnect with nature. But, as Simon Maybin’s been finding out in a remote part of Peru, not all the plant’s traditional users are happy about the wave of Westerners in search of a slice of the psychedelic action.
Death In Baghdad
The assassination in a US air strike of the senior Iranian general Qasem Soleimani raises the prospect of a response from Teheran that few can predict. Jim Muir reports on the significance of the US target and what might happen next.
Thirty years ago the United States acted to remove another foreign threat, this time closer to home. Following the US invasion of Panama shortly before Christmas, the country's military leader General Manuel Noriega surrendered to US troops on January the 3rd, 1990. David Adams was there.
In Ireland it used to be common for unmarried mothers to be confined in state-funded institutions. Often their babies, once born, were taken without their consent and given up for adoption. Deirdre Finnerty has met one of the thousands of women who were sent to these mother and baby homes.
Air travel in the Democratic Republic of Congo matters because there are few reliable roads. But there are serious concerns about the safety of flying and many people can't afford it anyway. Most Congolese who need to cover long distances do so - precariously - by boat. Olivia Acland has been aboard.
Maximum Irritability is a little known but nonetheless debilitating condition sometimes encountered high in the mountains on Pakistan’s border with India, as David Baillie discovered when he took a trip in a helicopter courtesy of the Pakistani army.
Taiwan's Bright Ideas
Recent events in Hong Kong have made many people in Taiwan jumpy. Duncan Hewitt talks to a Taiwanese hacker and activist turned government minister who is full of ideas about how to improve life on the island. He finds an increasingly pluralistic and confident society, now more inclined to stand up to China.
Our main focus this week is on the natural world and we begin at the South Pole where Justin Rowlatt is holed up in a research station eating chips and patiently waiting for a change in the weather.
At the opposite pole, we trek around Greenland. Some are calling this Artic country the Saudi Arabia of the Green future because it is so rich in rare earth metals. Horatio Clare reflects on exploitation in the wilderness.
There are fears of plunder too in the Cayman Islands where the tourism industry is threatening to rip up great swathes of coral for the convenience of cruise ship passengers.