Refugee Council warns politicians not to pander to racism and bigotry - Refugee Council
April 24, 2002

Refugee Council warns politicians not to pander to racism and bigotry

Refugee Council Statement

In the week when the French public has taken to the streets in unprecedented demonstrations, following the shock result in the first round of the French presidential elections, the British Parliament today debates the Government’s Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill. The Refugee Council raises grave concerns that politicians are going overboard trying to sound tough on asylum and are in real danger of fueling anti-immigrant feeling in our society.

Nick Hardwick, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:

“We are extremely worried that the debate is being whipped up following the events in France. The whole tone of the debate in recent months has improved and been calmer and less inflammatory but we are very concerned that the political parties will once again resort to trying to “out tough and out talk” each other.

“Rather than appeasing the views of racists and bigots the main political parties should be clearly distancing themselves from these views and showing leadership by informing the British public as to why it is morally right to welcome refugees. The hallmark of a civilised society is one that offers a helping hand to strangers in need.

“Our main concern is that the public debate around asylum rarely addresses the main point of the system which is to provide a safe haven for people who have fled their countries in fear of their lives.

“The only way the Government is going to convince anyone – from asylum seekers to the British public – that they have got the system right is by putting forward clear, credible and sustainable policies that will help both asylum seekers and the host communities.

“Fair and quick decisions on asylum cases must lie at the heart of the system. Policies that focus on so-called ‘deterrent’ measures or exclude refugees from mainstream society do not address the fundamental issue: that while wars and serious human rights violations take place around the world, people will need to find safety elsewhere.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill receives its second reading in the House of Commons today, Wednesday 24 April.

2. Further information about the Government’s intended changes to the asylum system is available in the info centre.

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