Socialist Worker

Oppose the racist witch-hunt against asylum seekers

Issue No. 1693

Back this statement

Oppose the racist witch-hunt against asylum seekers

THE CLIMATE of hate being whipped up by the press against asylum seekers is sickening. Tory and New Labour politicians are stoking up the witch-hunt against refugees. This gives confidence to racists to turn the words of hate into brutal attacks on anyone they consider to be a "foreigner". That is why media workers in the National Union of Journalists have launched a statement condemning the press attacks on asylum seekers. It is winning wide support. Everyone should go round their workplace, college and community urging people to sign the statement to build up a strong voice of anti-racist opposition.

"WE, THE undersigned, are writing to protest at the torrent of abuse currently being aimed at asylum seekers by sections of the national press. The most vulnerable group of people, fleeing persecution, oppression and war, is being falsely blamed for all the ills of British society. The United Nations Commissioner for Refugees has rightly condemned the Tories for playing the race card in the run-up to the local elections.

Asylum seekers have become the targets for a new racism. The stereotyping used in the past against Jews, and then black and Asian people coming to this country, is now being employed against asylum seekers, especially those from Eastern Europe. Racist sentiment is being inflamed when terms such as "floods" and "tidal waves" are used to describe the relatively small numbers of asylum seekers arriving here.

We are continually being told that Britain is a "soft touch". In reality, we have the harshest asylum regime in Western Europe. Britain takes less refugees per head of population than Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Finland, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Denmark and Canada. The New Labour government says it wants to combat racism in the aftermath of the Lawrence inquiry.

Yet its attacks on asylum seekers, such as its policy of forced dispersal and the voucher system, are encouraging racism. Incidents such as the recent horrific attack on the white boyfriend of black Olympic athlete Ashia Hansen and repeated attacks demonstrate the consequences of this poisonous atmosphere that is being whipped up.

We not only condemn those newspapers which have seen fit to present lies, myths and distortions as the truth to their readers, but also those politicians, Tory and Labour, who are urging them on. We believe that asylum seekers deserve our compassion and help. They do not deserve to be vilified and treated as criminals. We call on everyone who is sickened by the witch-hunt against asylum seekers to make their voice heard."

"THE press statements have been xenophobic, hostile and unwelcoming. Asylum seekers should be warmly welcomed and offered protection."

  • BRUCE KENT, former chair, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

"AT THE very moment when the government claims to be committed to eliminate racism from the police, the policies it is taking towards immigration are effectively encouraging racism."


THOSE WHO have already signed the statement include: 

Sukhdev Reel, mother of murdered student Ricky Reel; John Wadham, director, Liberty; Tony Benn MP; Liz Davies, Labour Party NEC (personal capacity); Bruce Kent; Mike Marqusee; Guardian journalists Jonathan Steele, Vivek Chaudhary, Seumas Milne, Paul Foot and Gary Younge; Mick Chatwin, legal director, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants; comedians Mark Steel, Mark Thomas and Jeremy Hardy; Suresh Grover, chair, National Civil Rights Movement (personal capacity); John Foster, general secretary, National Union of Journalists (NUJ); Dave Toomer, president, NUJ; Muhammad Idrish, West Midlands Anti-Deportation Campaign; Alex Pascall, chair, NUJ Black Members; Aidan White, general secretary, International Federation of Journalists; Don Flynn, policy and projects worker, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants; Lisa Schuster, Faculty of Humanities and Social Science, South Bank University. Organisations supporting this statement include: National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns; Monitoring Project; Onibiyo Family Anti-Deportation Campaign; Europe Roma Organisation.

Add your name and that of your organisation. 
Send to: Asylum Statement, NUJ Magazine Branch, c/o Acorn House, 314-320 Gray's Inn Road, London WC1X 8DP. E-mail [email protected]. Donation are also needed. Cheques payable to "London Magazine Branch".

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Article information

Fri 21 Apr 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1693
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