The race row - Refugee Council
April 23, 2001

The race row

Refugee Council release

“The Refugee Council supports the principles of good practice and conduct from the CRE. It recognises that it is entirely proper for there to be a vigorous debate on asylum but that the right to free political expression must not be abused in pursuit of political advantage by inciting or exploiting prejudice on the grounds of race, nationality or religion.” Jessica Yudilevich, Advocacy Manager, Refugee Council.

Background information

Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) ACPO has expressed its concern at what it calls the ‘ill informed, adverse media coverage’ of asylum seekers which has contributed to a rise in racial tension and increased risk to public disorder. In a report on policing issues around asylum, based on the experience of Kent police, ACPO states:
‘Racist expressions towards asylum seekers appear to have become common currency and acceptable in a way which would never be tolerated towards any other minority.’

The report noted a case where a vicar, in a town with asylum seekers, made a public statement saying asylum seekers were taking housing and school places away from locals. The report adds that this was not the case ‘but because of his position in the community, the story made front-page news. The story was highlighted by an extremist political party justifying and legitimising its position.’

Language in asylum debate harming race relations”The mood music is playing a hostile tune for black Britons. But it is the Home Office and indeed the ministers who are playing their part in the orchestra. By heralding measure after measure to stop people entering Britain, the Home Office has given life to the racists” – Bill Morris, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, The Independent (14 April, 2000)

“They wanted someone, anyone, to bid for the top table, not least to counter the drum beat of anti-asylum-seeker sentiment from our own government.” – Trevor Phillips, Chair of the GLA, Observer (May 21, 2000)

“The asylum seekers issue has been great for us. We have had phenomenal growth in membership. It’s been quite fun to watch Government ministers and Tories play the race card in far cruder terms than we would ever use, but pretend not to. This issue legitimises us” – Nick Griffin, leader of the BNP, Guardian Weekend (20 May, 2000).