Socialist Worker

Politicians' poison is fuel for racism

Issue No. 1698

What we think

Politicians' poison is fuel for racism

Time to make a stand

TORY LEADER William Hague and shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe are continuing to stir up hatred against asylum seekers. In the House of Commons on Monday, Widdecombe again urged the government to throw out more asylum seekers.

She demanded to know how many of the 37 Afghans who applied for asylum after the Stansted hijack are still in Britain. She then demanded to know how many of the nine asylum seekers home secretary Jack Straw saw arrested in Dover are still here. Instead of standing up to such witch-hunting, the government panders to it.

New Labour minister Barbara Roche boasts that the government is deporting record numbers of asylum seekers-11,340 in March. When asked by a fellow Labour MP why two teenage Algerian asylum seekers are in Greenock Prison in Scotland, Roche sought to justify it by saying she is "unclear" how old they are.

The result of this poisoned debate is to boost the confidence of racists. Nazi BNP leader Nick Griffin told the Guardian at the weekend, "The asylum seeker issue has been great for us. We have had a phenomenal growth in membership. It's quite fun to watch government ministers and the Tories play the race card in far cruder terms than we would ever use but pretend not to. It legitimises us."

No wonder many black people say the atmosphere being whipped up now feels like the 1970s when Enoch Powell and the Nazi National Front sought to use racism against refugees to gain influence.


Mail smokescreen

THE TORY press are using every dirty trick in the book to keep their racist campaign against asylum seekers running. Last week the Daily Mail seized on two incidents to try to discredit those who say the campaign against asylum seekers is fuelling racist attacks. It took the Birmingham case of the black man who said he had been set on fire by racists, and that of the boyfriend of athlete Ashia Hansen who said he had been knifed by Nazis.

The police now say that in both cases the men invented the attacks. The Mail says this proves there is no increase in racism. This is rubbish. Last week Scotland Yard itself said that recorded racial crime was on the increase.

West Midlands Police say that so far this year they have recorded 1,500 racist incidents, compared with a total of 1,000 for the whole previous year. Police figures show that the number of racist incidents in London doubled in the 12 months to April.

These include the attack on Eritrean refugee Tewdros Afeworki. He is still in a coma in London after a racist kicked his head in at Easter. Police statistics should be treated with caution, although they are notorious for under-reporting racist crimes. But it is clear that, despite what the Mail says, the racism spewed out by the right is being felt on the streets of Britain.


Morris backs the statement

A GROWING number of people, black and white, are organising to combat the lies against asylum seekers. TGWU manual union leader Bill Morris is the latest to back the national statement against the witch-hunt of refugees (see page 15).

Morris slammed Labour last month, saying that the witch-hunt against refugees "has given life to racists", and that "the mood music is playing a hostile tune for black Britons". The National Civil Rights Movement, the Europe Roma Organisation, Tony Benn MP, the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns and Socialist Worker have called a national demonstration in central London for Saturday 24 June. We call upon all our readers to throw themselves into a fight to turn the tide on the racists.

  • Sign the national statement and get others at work, in your union or community organisation, on your street or estate to do the same.
  • Build local meetings rallying together all those in each area who want to stand up against the witch-hunt against asylum seekers.
  • Build the national demonstration. Get transport booked now. Produce and sell tickets.

National demo, Saturday 24 June

Defend asylum seekers

Stop racist scapegoating

Refugees are not to blame
March and rally

Called by National Civil Rights Movement, Europe Roma Organisation, Tony Benn MP, National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns and Socialist Worker

Assemble 1pm, Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2 (nearest tube Holborn)


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Sat 27 May 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1698
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