For the first time this week the Welsh town of Wrexham was having an evening free from violence involving Iraqi refugees, locals and police.
The trouble the police claim is criminal rather than racial. Although it has involved stone-throwing and petrol bombs, the police are also saying it does not add up to rioting.
We sent Richard Watson there, to see what he could find out.
This is the Caia Park Estate, one of the
poorest in the Welsh border town of
Wrexham. Locals say it's been dogged by
drugs and crime, but unemployment is low
and recently things have been getting
better, with a number of community
support projects, funded by the council.
But tensions have been rising and the scale
of the riots over the past two nights has
shocked locals and politicians alike.
(MAYOR OF WREXHAM)
It is a shock. Our hope is that this is just a
minor hiccup - a minor setback in our
plans. What we have to do is listen to
people and their grievances and to make
sure that we act upon those grievances.
It all started here at the local pub, with the
dispute between an Iraqi Kurd who had
been dating a Wrexham girl and some of
the locals. There were reports of some
racist abuse and some stone-throwing. The
following night there were violent clashes
between locals and the police. Nine arrests
were made and a crowd of more than 100
fought with sticks, even petrol bombs were
He had a knife in his hand. He run over
with the lads over there. The next minute, I
saw there were two with knives coming
across the path, one was right by me. I
jumped in the bloody garden over there. I
was terrified, I was. I was shaking.
Walking around the estate, feelings were
They get free NHS and jobs. I haven't got
a job. They took the jobs, they will take
slave labour money, where I am looking
for minimum wage. But I can't get a job as
they've taken it.
So a lot of anger?
Yeah, there is. I wouldn't cause it myself,
but I would join in.
They've come here, all grouped together.
You know what I mean. There are loads in
the flats over there, they're full of them.
They have got their own community. They
think they can waltz around doing anything
they want. It's not going to happen. It's not
This won't stop until the Iraqis are out.
All the refugees have now fled the estate.
Some have gone into hiding in cities as far
away as Birmingham. But we contacted a
small group who agreed to meet us today
to tell us about life in Wrexham and how a
local argument turned into a riot. We were
told by Iraqi Kurds that one of their friends
was still in intensive care and was almost
killed. These Kurds, who are all working
and paying taxes, fled life under Saddam
Hussein. They argue that in Wrexham they
just wanted to lead peaceful lives.
I can't stay here. There are too many.
So you were an asylum seeker, now you're
a refugee from Iraq, but now you're a
refugee from Wrexham?
Yes, a refugee from Wrexham. So I want
The newly-appointed mayor from
Wrexham was lobbied by youngsters as he
There's probably about, at the most, 30 of
these people in a population of 12,500.
The mayor says that community relations
have been reasonably good, but the issue
of housing may need to be addressed.
There may be an issue on housing that we
have to address. The reality of the situation
is that these are, in the main, young men.
They are dealt with on our housing list in
exactly the same way as others, they have
few housing points. The reality is, if they
present themselves as homeless, the easiest
thing for the housing authority is to put
them into hard-to-let accommodation.
That's a problem, not for Caia Park Estate,
but for us as a housing authority and a
problem that faces most housing
authorities in the UK.
As elsewhere in Britain, local people
perceive that the refugees get all the help.
Because they're in special need, because
they are vulnerable, because we have an
avenue to help them and people are willing
to help. They get furniture, clothes, food.
They are identified as a sector in need.
Wrexham has that kind of tradition.
Community leaders stress that Wrexham
has had good race relations in the past. But
now, following two nights of violence, the
refugees no longer believe they are safe in
(WELSH REFUGEE COUNCIL)
As a result of the situation since Sunday,
where refugees are willing to go back,
some have returned, others are unwilling to
return and genuinely feel petrified; that if
they returned, their lives would be at risk
on the estate. Obviously, them being
refugees with the UK providing them with
protection, it obviously raises a number of
issues if people fleeing from Saddam
Hussein's regime are feeling just as
persecuted in this country.
But just as we were finishing the interview,
a couple of boy racers swung around the
corner shouting racist abuse at our
interviewee, pointing their hands in a
pretend gun gesture and shouting, "in your
I have been to Wrexham many times. This
is really the first time I have heard such
racist abuse. I think it's a result of tensions
that are rising because of the events that
have just taken place.
The lesson from Wrexham seems to be that
members of racism in Britain are glowing
dully, but can be rekindled by something
as simple as a local spat. As the long days
of summer stretch ahead, that is food for
thought for the Government.
This transcript was produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.