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Friday, 19 October, 2001, 18:10 GMT 19:10 UK
Is tougher legislation against the terrorists necessary?
The Home Secretary, David Blunkett has announced a reform of Britain's asylum laws in response to the US attacks last month.
He outlined a strategy which will include amending the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 to ensure those suspected or convicted of terrorist involvement cannot be considered for asylum in this country.
Law enforcement agencies would also have the right to full access to air and sea carriers' passenger and freight lists. Security at transport centres such as airports would also be increased and the British Transport police would be given wider powers.
In addition Mr Blunkett announced a widening of the law on incitement to include religious as well as racial hatred.
Do you think that the proposed legislation is necessary? Or is it an over-reaction that could affect individual rights? Will it make a difference to British security?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
More legislation will not get rid of terrorists and evil-doers. This is just a cosmetic patch-up. What we need is to re-educate the 'young muslim blood' who are growing up hating the west and all it stands for.
I cannot understand the usefulness of the laws in light of recent events. Persons entering the UK with intention of terrorism presumably do not advertise this fact, possibly have no previous record (or else a false identity) and suicide attackers would have no concern for future asylum difficulties?
For all those people who are in favour of increased security - would you mind a security camera fitted in your homes and in your bedrooms, toilets etc? You never know - people could be plotting terrorist acts there!
People with nothing to hide and a clear conscience need have no fears. If tougher laws are for the common good to protect our freedom as we know it, the Government is correct to rethink.
Yes tougher action is needed and do not just look at the Taleban or Osama Bill Laden because even here in Zimbabwe, the rulers are also terrorising people and this is how it all start, they will soon take their terrorism to other countries. Stop them now before they become as sophisticated as Bill Laden.
Before the September 11 attacks I was wholeheartedly against any asylum seeker being refused entry to any country on this planet. But I feel now that proof of who you really are must be identified. Even the slightest doubt must be treated with concern. It is a case of the few making it hard for the many.
I think if the British think the problem is only from those coming to the country now, they are very mistaken. The problem is those living in the country that will either assist or participate in the terrorism. I think like in the USA there are people who knew about terror acts in advance and did not advise authorities because they were scared. There should be laws making them accountable with severe penalties.
Would saying something like 'Jesus is the Way the Truth and the Life', be incitement to religious hatred. I believe this statement, and would want the freedom to share this with others. However, if they don't agree I'm not going to kill or hurt them because of it. If you try and force someone to believe and they agree then it defeats the object. In their hearts they know their confession was only made under duress.
At present, the UK offers asylum on the basis of political need. This leads to favouring political refugees, such as the members of terrorist organisations. Why not offer asylum on the basis of equally humanitarian, economic needs instead? Starving women and children, regularly turned back because they lack a political cause, are rarely terrorists.
I'm looking forward to the "Guilty by association Bill" coming out next year.
The proposed religious hatred laws strike me as another extension to the dubious culture of "victimology" we've been developing. Incitement to violence is incitement to violence, whether the target be religious groups, paedophiles, people with red hair or a specific individual.
Yes. National security is a good enough reason for the government to get tough on asylum seekers and immigration. But the government needs to study countrywide history of immigration, their contributions and identify the dangerous ones. As is obvious, the source of terrorism has to be identified and the export of "terrorists" from these places needs to be stopped.
Also close surveillance and monitoring of every religious place of worship is a must. Safety and security of the citizens is above all else.
I think that tougher legislation against all terrorists is necessary. What I can't understand is why here in Northern Ireland the British government turns a blind eye to terrorists and rewards them by putting them into government. I am sure that if a person was convicted of terrorist activity anywhere else in the world they would not be put into that government. I just find it amazing that Tony Blair can enter into this war on terrorism when in fact he seems to be supporting it here. I would like to know, now that this war has begun, is the British government now going to look closer to home and root out the terrorists from our government?
Tridiv Borah, Germany/Indian
In response to Tridviv: My experience of living in working in Germany does not fit your point. As a EU national working in Germany, I had to report to the authorities every three months to prove that I was still gainfully employed and entitled to work and live there. I was also required by law to carry an ID card with me at all times. The proposed regulations in the UK would merely bring the UK into line with "liberal" Germany. My main concerns with the different legislations is that the temporary measures brought in on a wave of public opinion have a way of becoming permanent. I am also concerned about the legislation regarding inciting religious hatred. Would this mean that Salman Rushdie, the Monty Python team and others would not be able to have produced their material?
Who is going to tell Mr Blunkett about the terrorists may I ask? Better he controls all who enter the UK asking for asylum and those economic migrants coming here to work. Make them report to the local police every week confirming their addresses and issue them all with a swipe card. Otherwise Mr Blunkett will never know who is entering the UK.
Also, as police forces can hardly cope now, who should enforce all these controls? And asylum seekers don't turn automatically into terrorists after they have been given asylum in Britain.
These new laws will have no effect on terrorists. They will, however, increase the government's control over the law-abiding population, using the 11 September attacks as an excuse to reduce our civil liberties. Eric Hall makes the point that powers, once given over one group of people, are easily transferable to other groups. Once the point is conceded, it is in the nature of bureaucracies to expand, to infer the general from the particular. This is already being proposed about the right to trial by jury, and moves towards inquisitorial rather than adversarial systems of trial. Whilst we have a relatively benign government at the moment, can we be sure that will always be the case in the future? And that these new powers, once given, will never be misused? New laws are not the solution. If the existing laws were properly enforced there would be no calls for additional legislation.
This is an absolute overreaction. Who decides who is a terrorist? Half the present UK Government was once on MI5's surveillance list,
Mandela was a "terrorist" and Bin Laden was once a friend of the west.
Secondly, when you say "suspected" of terrorist involvement, you mean the presumption enshrined in English Law of "innocent until proven guilty" is now to be changed? No doubt first for asylum seekers, but who will be the next group singled out for this treatment? New Age travellers, maybe? Or Conservative party members, or anti-vivisection campaigners? Once something is accepted as commonplace for one group of people it is easy to transfer it to another. Never give a politician an inch - he'll soon end up with a mile!
Mark Harris, UK
We are not living in normal times, so normal rules and privileges cannot apply. In times of national emergency, I accept such restrictions and impositions as may be deemed necessary by the government of the day. If we do not want the terrorists to win, and I presume none of us do, we must accept that the rights to live in peace and freedom come at a price.
At last Britain has realised that it is a safe place for grooming terrorist. So many people, not all terrorists, have evaded justice in their own country and are staying here on the pretext of human rights. It is unfortunate that the UK turned a blind eye towards the terrorist organisation like LTTE. The demand for a separate country in Indian Punjab (Khalistan) was initiated in the UK. Some of the so-called freedom fighters fighting and killing innocent people in Kashmir are British nationals. These are all big events, but even a small case like extraditing a suspect Nadeem Saifee (music director from India) involved in a murder case is leaving in the UK since last about 4 years.
Where is the justice and which terrorists Tony is talking about wiping out.
Mark C Adams, England
As part of his proposals, David Blunkett wants to rush through a law that will give the state the right to seize the assets and funds of anyone suspected of being a terrorist. SUSPECTED! Does Mr. Blunkett wish to set aside our judicial system that is based on the presumption of innocence where guilt needs to be proved by the prosecution? With so many cases of Rough Justice and corrupt state officials being brought to light everyday, these proposed new "Laws" and the ongoing debate on whether the right to a Trial by Jury should be quashed, are all rather frightening.
It may come as no surprise to the enlightened that this country of free men has been blacklisted by many of our European partners and the US because we allow known terrorists to operate quite overtly from established offices in the capital. Furthermore, the banking fraternity consistently handle the terror funds of these organisations whilst maintaining confidentiality and a very respectable image. New laws and the old ones should be used to the fullest possible measure to ensure that no political ground is gained from acts of terrorism and that "respectable" members of our society are not lining their pockets from it.
It was high time stricter rules like these were implemented. These ungrateful characters abused the system by coming over to our countries, took advantage of our freedoms and sent money back to fund various terrorist groups. The amounts of money sent back to finance terror and destruction is mind-boggling. If you have nothing to hide, you will not be afraid to be thoroughly screened. Many humanitarian fund raisers have been fronts for terrorists activities, and its about time the authorities got wise and clamped down on them.
The majority of people in the UK now are secular in outlook. Will the new religious criminal laws protect atheists from attack by religious extremists?
I am somewhat disturbed by the proposal to extend anti-hatred legislation to cover religion since this is a preference and should be open to challenge in a free society. That is what allows religious belief to develop and respond to new thinking. At what point does a contrary opinion become an incitement to hatred? Also, what about other forms of hatred that will not be covered such as homophobia, which incites hatred of people who have no choice in their sexual orientation? Maybe the solution is to have a wider non-specific law covering incitement to commit violence against the person, whatever the reason.
Jon, London, UK
Until recent news stories I didn't realise the UK was so relaxed with regard to terrorists but instead it appears that it has become a launch pad for much of the recent troubles. The legislation screw should be tightened as far as is necessary to make the UK the safe haven it claims to be internationally.
What is a religion? If I worship a coffee-cup and you sneer at my religion, are you a criminal?
No special legislations are required to curb the menace of terrorism. If we take a quick look at the existing laws, we would learn that several of these legislations have not been exercised fully in the name of human rights and mercy. Those fanatics who do not respect freedom and justice, should not expect leniency from the keepers of the law. Civil liberties of such people need to be curtailed in order to preserve human rights of the masses.
The UK is a known harbourer of terrorists, indeed the USA was to present a petition to the UN to have the UK classed as such. In the light of this I feel that this proposed legislation is long overdue but is proposed more because of the impending UN complaint than any real desire to tighten up on what is fast becoming an unwelcome and unacceptable tide of opportunists.
Let's face it, terrorism can never be eradicated as it often comes from within. Each nation has to strengthen their internal security before flexing their muscles in a foreign land as this is most likely not even necessary. If we take the events on the 11th of Sept none of these terrorists were living or working in their native territories but generally in the land to which they planned to destroy. All in all, a very chilling thought.
When will governments learn that quickly implemented laws are usually later found to be bad laws.
Investigate the need for legislation on this matter, but don't pass laws in a panic. Response to any public event should be measured and appropriate. It's not as if Britain has only just been exposed to terrorism for the first time!
Dangerous dogs, rail privatisation - ring any bells?
Andrew Bartlett, UK
So, will the new laws apply to the bigots in Northern Ireland (unlike the gun laws)? If so, better start building some massive prisons. If not, what's the point?
It's just another excuse to pass more control laws to make us more obedient consumers and voters, for they must know that you'll never stop a determined terrorist, no-matter what technology or systems you have in place. At the end of the day what ever you think of to secure the country is only thought of by another person and can therefore be defeated by one. I can believe it, the government is scared of free speech and this rings loudly in these times. So much for democracy...
In any such argument there will always be some gun nuts who will want tougher laws for everything else except guns, which they are so passionately in love with. Tougher legislation against terrorism and gun control have the same end in mind - a safer society. Now do I hear you right wing Thatcherite loonies saying, "There is no such thing as a society"?
The Government has used the tragedy of September 11 as an excuse to create new legislation that infringes human rights. Instead of doing that perhaps the UK Government should think about getting the basics right. I am sitting in my office in the City of London and have just seen a 747 fly directly overhead - I thought flights over the centre of London had been banned. Not much chance of public confidence if our rights are cut down but certain simple measures are not taken.
I thought we were quite well protected (except from our home grown terrorists) but unless Blair puts an end to our illegal involvement in bombing Afghanistan, every area of policing and security will have to be restructured - and WHY? - because America is hated. It was ridiculous to say the 11th was not just an attack on America - be realistic - now the rest of the world has to suffer.
Why do we the citizens always have our rights, freedom and liberty eroded each time there is a problem that needs some thought? Instead our government stood side-by-side with the defender of democracy and rightly put the life of each and every British person in danger. These terrorists left the government with no choice!
Already the bombings on Afghanistan have generated clear anger in the population of some countries, as well as putting governments in awkward positions while trying to balance the will of America with the opinion of it's population - does no-one think that this in itself could be a cause of conflict in the future? Are we not at risk of giving birth to the next generation of terrorists who in 2, 5 or even 10 years will take it upon themselves to punish the western world for its actions the same way that the previously American-funded-trained-equipped Osama Bin Laden decided 10 years ago to strike at America for its war in Iraq? We are giving guns and money to his opponents now, but what guarantee do we have that these 'friends' of today will remain so? We are playing a very dangerous game.
I'm worried that religious hate-crimes would be used to stifle dissent from freethinkers and the like. With such laws, would Bertrand Russell have been able to write all his famous polemics?
If it means my wife can travel more safely, which is every woman, child, and man's human right, then I have no objection to much tougher security measures. Not letting people in is just half the battle, remember terrorists will be capable of hijacking, diverting and crashing jets into the UK from abroad now.
We have to ask ourselves what is more important, bleeding heart liberals moaning about loss of liberty or the loss of innocent lives? Surely the tougher measures can only enhance security for innocent UK citizens (irrespective of race or religion).
No matter how tough a law can be, if it is the only thing done about terrorism the result will be even worse as the ones affected by it will be us and our. "Freedom" of thought, association etc. Can't the politicians put that through their heads and start doing more sensible things and stop the stupid ones before we reach that stage of no-return!
Alan A, UK
How will the government find out if an asylum seeker is a suspected terrorist? By asking the regime they're escaping from? Not exactly a solid plan. By targeting these people as part of the "war on terrorism", isn't the government undermining its own message that this war isn't about race or faith?
It's worrying to see a lot of comments expressing views of intolerance with comments like: "Can we please lock them up and throw away the key". Yes we have a problem. Yes terrorists are hurting a lot of innocent people to further advance their cause. Yes I do not agree with it and yes I would like it to stop. However I fear that we are going about this war the wrong way.
So Labour finally accepts the need to toughen up its asylum laws. Well it's about time they used their intelligence. The opposition has been telling the government how weak its asylum procedures are for years now.
Terrorism occurs when their rights are being disregarded. The Western policy of so called "economic sanction" against other countries who want to stand up for their right is not only doing its purposes, it is instead creating a tougher attitude towards the west. The bottom line is mutual respect for each and every country in the world. And if any policing has to be done must be carried out by United Nation Organisation not by individual countries, it back fires. Perhaps the time also has come to re-look at the present position of United Nation with its set up of having permanent members. Equality is the bottom line.
The crusade against terrorism should be very strict. In particular the Cabinet should meet in the Tower of London. Once there, the Queen should detain them at Her pleasure for their terrorism in Serbia and Afghanistan; and then throw away the key.
Kiran Bharthapudi, India, in USA
All this fuss about civil liberties, at this moment in time I'd rather sleep safe at night knowing that the authorities have the power to prevent the unthinkable!
Good idea Mr Blunkett. People with nothing to hide have nothing to fear. In addition to keeping terrorists from entering the country by conventional ports it will have a positive effect on smuggling which is very beneficial. In the majority of the world identity cards are the norm so I can't see what the problem is if they're introduced. As far as inciting religious hatred goes I completely agree with making it illegal, and if people hate it so much they can always emigrate.
Any measures to increase security should be seen as a positive step, instead of a negative one. I'm amazed at some peoples' objections on this. As long as this is implemented in a fair and efficient manner what is there to fear. These measures should have been in effect years ago. We should be thankful for this increase in security and not think of it as a nuisance. Anyone who thinks different should think about immigrating, that's if they want to be less safe. Really the mind boggles!
All this business about human rights, as opposed to personal safety, is a load of poppy cock. Terrorists and criminals do not deserve to be treated as human beings. They are animals and deserve to be treated as such. What about our human rights? Don't we have the right to go to a pub without the fear of being blown up? Stricter legislation has been needed for years and, if it happens, it could be the only positive thing to come out of this whole issue.
Like gun control, there is always the inclination to pass more laws on top of the many existing laws which we, as nations of law, have chosen not to enforce, or, as the case of the UK have tragically let unaccountable "Euro" courts of left wingers have final arbitration. This is absurd. And it can be fatal.
Our countries are overwhelmingly enriched by immigrants and here we stand in marked distinction with the evil, closed societies that seek to destroy us. But as sovereign nations we have the right, the obligation to our citizens and legal residents, to prohibit the arrival or deport known and suspected criminals and terrorists. No one has a "right" to live among us with the intent to destroy us.
I think the proposed laws do not go far enough. All types of guns should be banned to civilians. Even if they haven't been used in a high profile massacre.
Giving the police more access to information has to be a good thing. If I am not breaking any laws I have nothing to hide. If people are terrorists they should be arrested when they present themselves at customs - not sent back where they came from.
Religious intolerance is surely the same thing as racial intolerance, so the law should include both.
An in reply to Phil Davies, does he include the US and UK governments in his "lock up and throw away the key" comment? Not that this would necessarily be a bad thing....
Yes, all good stuff, but can we also concentrate on some of the home grown variety whether they be UDA, UVF, UFF, IRA, Real IRA or anyone illegally possessing firearms, explosives or ammunition to further their political cause.
Please can we lock them up and throw away the key. Can we also lock up the fundraisers who finance their terror, and anybody else who thinks they have a God-given right to blow people apart, shoot them or just terrorise them.
Ed Vista, UK
Nobody but the Britons should answer these questions. If new laws are proposed for implementation in France, Poland or India, then they should be dealt with by the citizens of those countries. As a law student, I would say that individual rights are essential for a democratic society. But isn't an overload of individual rights harmful to society? Who knows where the limit to human rights must stand? And under what circumstances and conditions one may put limits to individual rights? The UK is a very probable target for terrorist attacks from now on. Its government should take preventative actions to try to combat any threat to UK citizens.
London has become a breeding ground for terrorists, including those who openly encourage their alumni to follow Bin Laden. Although free speech should be respected, those who incite hatred or threaten the fabric of UK society should be denied the freedoms that do not exist in most Arab-ruled lands.
I would like to see our borders closed and our immigration policies enforced as they should be and according to the laws we made. Not to mention restricting access to our universities and research institutes. That would certainly make me feel a lot safer.
Andrew Cover, UK
More laws, beyond basic border controls, are nonsense and will only hurt the law abiding and docile. We must remember that one man's terrorist is another man's guerrilla warrior and potential liberator. To succeed in a guerrilla war, you must remove the base of support and kill the warriors. Giving government even more power to watch us and control our activities will not deter a dedicated warrior but will move us further down the road towards outright tyranny.
It is reasonable enough for a government to ask parliament for new powers to deal with new problems. But it would be equally reasonable for the government to get rid of powers it no longer needed. One way to guarantee that would be to make such "emergency legislation" temporary, with a preset expiry date.
To answer Nicole's question: "How are terrorists to be identified?" Mr Bush has already replied to this - "if you are not with the US, you are with the terrorists". Hence, it's simple to define terrorists. If you disagree with any US policy, then you are a terrorist. Sadly, this may actually turn out to be the case in reality. I wonder though if Bin Laden had killed 6,000 civilians crashing planes into buildings in Iraq, would the US regard him as a terrorist or a freedom fighter?
I am very concerned about the "protection of religion" clause. We are seeing every day now the horrifying effects of religious extremism. To be legally prevented from denouncing this could signal the end of a tolerant, democratic Britain. Those who preach religious extremism, whether Christian or Muslim, should be prosecuted. Religious extremism has no place in 21st century Britain.
Guy Hammond, England
Anyone from Afghanistan coming to the UK must realise that they are likely to be under suspicion, and be prepared to deal with that until this war is over.
We have to be careful at this time to protect the inhabitants of this small island, dragged into a war by a PM with a 'president complex'. If some people are inconvenienced or have their feelings hurt because the British distrust anyone of Afghan origin during this time, then that's just hard luck.
How much police intrusion am I expected to tolerate just to prove I have nothing to hide? Should we have CCTV cameras in every room in every building, just in case people are discussing a terrorist plot? After all, those with nothing to hide would surely not object to this.
Mark Littlewood, Campaign Director, Liberty, UK
I think it is high time something was done about terrorists living here. If we are going to attack countries hosting terrorists then we should not be harbouring them ourselves. It is difficult to turn a blind eye to those who live in London and endorse the murder of Blair and the bombing of London landmarks. I think incitement to terrorism should also be an offence.
The attacks are simply being used as an excuse to curb civil liberties.
Nigel Baldwin, UK
Olly, do you think terrorists go out to get a gun license and would go home with their tails between their legs if they were told all guns were banned? What relevance has your proposal then?
Far stricter security measures concerning who goes in and out of the country are welcome as far as I am concerned. I also condone the government's plan to allow greater powers to block terrorist finances, as long as the term 'terrorist' is clearly and justly defined and not confused with legitimate organisations that seek to overthrow a despotic regime in a foreign land. However, as far as 'hate' laws are concerned, this is a dangerous area. I am an atheist, and while I have no problem if others follow a religion, I will maintain my right to be critical of certain religious practices. I am also wondering whether this 'hate' crime will be used to protect people like me from sadistic Christian literature which occasionally falls through my letterbox, informing me that if I don't repent my sins and follow God, I will burn in hell. Now that is hateful.
One thing that needs to be done is to have tougher rules for the media with regard to their biased reporting and standards. The media have thrown around the terms "Islamic terrorist", "Muslims", "crime" or "terror". Why do we rarely hear the phrase "Christian Terrorist" or "Catholic Terrorist"? We never hear, "Today a Christian man was in custody for?" Yet for some reason the media here, and globally, insist on pointing out any kind of link at all with Islam or Muslims, "Today a Muslim man was in custody for..."
This kind of thing has done nothing but harm and alienate this country's Muslims, and those around the world even further. The vast majority of them are peaceful, hard workers just like everyone else, who despise terrorism, violence and killing.
There will inevitably be a public outcry over David Blunkett's proposed legislation, especially after the negative reactions to the recent talk of compulsory ID cards. However, the fact is we now live in a different world than that of before September 11th and as the recent cases of Anthrax in the US have shown, any tightening of security at our ports and airports can only be in the nations interest, which far outweighs individual freedoms. If people wish to live in a society free from the threat of terrorism then they will have to sacrifice some of the freedom they enjoyed before the events in America.
I have to agree with David Blunkett's proposals. Whether the terrorists will find another way is irrelevant. We need to change our law so that the UK does not remain a safe haven for anyone with evil intentions.
My only concern is that the part dealing with inciting religious hatred will apply only in a Muslim/Christian context when there is considerable incitement between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland which should also be enforced, especially as this too is a cause of terrorism.
The proposed new laws are terror in itself without safeguard against misuse.
I don't think it will
make any difference.
The potential terrorist
will probably find another
way. It's not as
if the terrorists follow
any laws anyway.
Ahmed Raja: do I assume then, that you'd prefer it if murder was legalised? After all, potential murderers will probably still find a way, and it's not as though they follow the law anyway.
No one would advocate letting terrorists into the country. However, this mustn't be allowed to become yet another attempt to "clamp down" on asylum. Previous experience has told us so many times that those who are toughest on asylum seekers are the softest on asylum. There is no better prevention of abuse than an objective, just and decent system. That is what the government needs to sort out.
Yes, it is clearly necessary and should have been implemented long before the events of the last few weeks.
Philip Levy, UK
15 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Anti-terror tactics to be unveiled
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