Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point
On Air
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Saturday, February 27, 1999 Published at 18:00 GMT


UK

Thousands protest against asylum laws

Speakers claimed the law would lead to more racism

About 2,500 demonstrators have gathered in London protesting that proposed new asylum laws would encourage racism against refugees.

Anti-racist campaigners and asylum seekers' rights groups marched from the Embankment to Trafalgar Square where speakers claimed that the government's Asylum and Immigration Bill will be unfair and oppressive.

The proposals include measures to spread refugees around the country and replace benefits with vouchers for food and prepaid accommodation.

'Vulnerable to racist attack'

The Labour MP Diane Abbott, who will sit on a House of Commons committee to review the legislation, told the demonstration that amendments were needed to secure the rights and safety of Britain's asylum seekers.

Standing in front of Nelson's Column she said: "My real concern is that by sending asylum seekers around the country you will make them more isolated and more vulnerable to racist attack."

The government's planned radical shake-up of the immigration and asylum system comes as the authorities struggle to cope with a surge in the number of people applying for refugee status.

It is hoped the new support system will discourage economic migrants and lead to faster decisions with an improved applications procedure.

Kurds join demonstrators

Among the protestors were hundreds of Kurds protesting at the arrest earlier this month by Turkish authorities of rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Brief scuffles broke out in the early afternoon after one man shouted at the crowd.

The man, who was not arrested, was led away by officers.

The Liberal Democrat MP Dr Evan Harris, whose Oxford West constituency includes the controversial Campsfield House detention centre, said the government was enshrining the sort of "institutional racism" it had vowed to eradicate.

Speaking after the rally, Dr Harris said: "In the week following the Stephen Lawrence report, the government has introduced a Bill to institutionalise racism.

"It is significant that a government which came in to fight to end social exclusion is introducing it instead by legislating to disperse asylum seekers across the country and away from their communities."

The MP said his party had opposed the new Bill from the beginning and would continue to do so.



Advanced options | Search tips




Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©


UK Contents

Northern Ireland
Scotland
Wales
England

Relevant Stories

23 Feb 99 | UK Politics
Fingerprint checks for immigrants

17 Feb 99 | UK Politics
Asylum-seekers 'could starve'

09 Feb 99 | UK Politics
Immigration bill for 'faster' system





Internet Links


Immigration White Paper

The Home Office


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.




In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online