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Friday, 7 June, 2002, 10:19 GMT 11:19 UK
Should Britain expel refugees?
The British Government is to announce new powers to speed up the removal of asylum seekers.

The measures mean thousands of people would lose the right to lodge appeals before they are deported.

Those whose claim for asylum is declared "clearly unfounded" by the immigration authorities will be sent back to their country of origin within days.

But refugee support groups are concerned that asylum seekers will be unable to access lawyers to launch an appeal once they are abroad.

What do you think of the changes? Should asylum seekers be thrown out of the country before their case goes to appeal?

This Talking Point was suggested by Sandra Gray, England :

Is the government correct in wanting to deport refugees immediately?

If you have any suggestions for Talking Points, please click here.

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

As much as it pains me to say it, the measures suggested by the Government do reflect the views of most (but not all) of the people whom I meet. People here are generally happy to offer sanctuary to those genuinely seeking safety. Difficulties result from the suspicion that asylum seekers are in fact economic migrants and that, in fact, many stories of persecution are not true. Should this matter? Is it better to allow a thousand liars so that one honest person may benefit? Some of us think yes.

Will this bankrupt the country, ruin the health service, and empty the pension funds? No! We have the 40-60s to thank for this and not asylum seekers. They voted for ultra-low-tax governments throughout the 80s and 90s. They chose to under-invest in our country leaving their parents as paupers and their children with the bill. That however was democracy at work - what the people want the people must get. Likewise, if the people want the door of welcome to close, as much as I want it to remain open, it should close. After all, it is as much their door as it is mine.
Michael, UK (Newcastle)

Why do we have to take them all? There are plenty of other countries out there who could take their fair share. The idea of immigration/asylum does not upset me, it is the queues on the French side of the Channel Tunnel that annoy me. Please read the conventions protecting you before jumping 30 countries to establish base in the UK. The asylum law is to save your lives, not establish you in the country of your choice, we have earned that right, sadly the asylum seekers have not.
Justin Thomas, England

Befriending an asylum seeking family has been one of the greatest privileges of my life

Phyllis, UK
Befriending an asylum seeking family has been one of the greatest privileges of my life as their courageous spirit and generous gratitude for my simple friendship is amazing. If we could all extend a hand across the language barrier and be a friend to only one family we would receive so much more than we give. Barriers of racial intolerance would not have a chance of being raised.
Phyllis, UK

I'd think it would be obvious to anyone that you can't have unlimited immigration AND a welfare state at the same time. Eventually, people will get tired of not taking home most of their pay check.
Ashley, USA

I am a Kurdish asylum seeker. I have been here since 2000 and my case has been refused three times. My village in my country has been destroyed by the Iraqi authorities, but I have been told by the Home Office that I must be sent back. So, could you tell me please where are my Human Rights, and where is your country's democracy?
Hemin Mahmoud, Iraq

The government needs to be able expel those who are not here for genuine asylum reasons.

Phil Doherty, UK
Throughout history waves of immigrants have come to this land. These immigrants have helped to bring great prosperity to the nation. The same has been true since the second world war - successive waves of immigrants from the old Empire have helped regenerate the UK as an economic power. We need new blood, new talent and fresh ideas. However, it is the duty of every government to limit immigration to sustainable levels. This is not happening at present and there is a genuine feeling among the UK population that they are being 'swamped' (whether true or not). The government needs to be able expel those who are not here for genuine asylum reasons.
Phil Doherty, UK

The issue that isn't being discussed is why the refugees want to come here, since France is more or less as wealthy as we are. Is it because the French leave it up to the Red Cross to look after them instead of the state?
Mark Cordell, Teesside, England

Britain and the west plundered the third world, and they still do. They have been selling arms to dictatorships and terrorist groups. The west has created the economic and human rights problems of those countries, and now we speak about no right to accept refugees.
Nidhal, Tunisia

The only people that should be allowed into the UK are those that have right of entry as a result of treaty or agreement, or have been authorised at their point of departure. No authorisation - no entry!
Richard, UK

Let's open the gates, let them in and let them work

Instead of wringing our hands and torturing ourselves on what to do about this the influx let's open the gates, let them in and let them work, cancel the welfare rights of refugees and migrants and ensure they contribute financially. Then we can increase the amount of benefit payable to UK Citizens. Surprised Tony Blair didn't think of it himself. After all he's a master of using inappropriate funds to keep himself going.

How many times must we hear the lame explanation that we are all human thus deserve an equal voice/choice. If you look around you, you will see poverty, injustice, oppression and war. That is caused by humans, whether English, Nigerians, black, white, politician or layman. Sometimes we need the rule of law, often the only rule that is required to make the difference between civilised behaviour & barbarism. We cannot allow the free exchange of humanity without control.
John, Australia

Question for supporters of immigration of Non-western peoples into Europe and North America: There are 1,000,000,000 people in India and 1,300,000,000 in China. How many of these should be invited to immigrate to Europe and N.America in the next 10 years? How may your choice affect the quality of life in these countries?
Robert John, USA

I'd think it would be obvious to anyone that you can't have unlimited immigration AND a welfare state at the same time. Eventually, people will get tired of not taking home most of their pay check.
Ashley, USA

The United Kingdom has every right to change policies to protect the native-born population. To suggest otherwise is "racist."
Archie, USA

More often than not their claims of persecution are proved unfounded

K Johnson, UK
The vast majority of the UK are quite outraged at the free-for-all going under the guise of asylum seeking. Let's be realistic: the overwhelming majority of asylum seekers are bogus in that they are blatantly lying about their circumstances in order to qualify for safe haven in the UK. More often than not their claims of persecution are proved unfounded, and even if it were true, why pass through several safe democratic countries on route to the UK? I would ask that of those who criticize any attempt to expel bogus asylum seekers: why are they not claiming asylum in the first safe country they arrive in? How do you same people defend this charge?
K. Johnson, GB

Britons should stop whingeing about being "full" and "swamped" and start accepting a bigger share of the World's refugees and asylum seekers. According to the UNHCR, there are currently 20 million refugees and Asylum seekers around the world. Countries like Pakistan, Iran, Kenya, Germany, Armenia and the USA accept far larger numbers than Britain. In fact at least 22 countries across the world host far more refugees than UK. As for being full, Britain does not even feature in the world's top 20 most densely population countries.
Levan Bahl, UK

Virtually all arriving in UK through any EU country are not genuine asylum seekers but economic refugees. Jack Straw says he'll send them back but he can't if the country won't accept them back. Only remedy is to stop them arriving in the first place. Why not set up an immigration office at Sangette where their applications can be processed? The problem would be reduced if there wasn't an open border with France which the government refuses to guard.
Julie, UK

Britain is hardly in a position to claim that it is unable to support an influx of refugees.

As the fourth largest economy in the world Britain is hardly in a position to claim that it is unable to support an influx of refugees. It also immediately loses it status as a humane and civilised country committed to democratic ideals were it to refuse to take in those fleeing forced poverty and genuine persecution. It is people from the wealthy establishment such as the Duke of Westminster who despite their obscene wealth still try and exempt themselves from having to agricultural tax, who are actually slowing economic growth. One man's wealth will always be another man's poverty until the government makes substantive efforts to redistribute wealth.

I think the government is right to send people back to their country if they don't think they should be here. That way, they can get on with processing the applications of refugees who truly need to escape their own country and start a new life here. Obviously it would be great if we could offer a place to anyone who wants it, but seeing as that's realistically not possible, surely we should concentrate on the needy?
Jo, UK

So it's all right for middle class Brits to move around the country and the world looking for work, but wrong when the poorest people from the poorest countries do it? Of course there needs to be some form of assessment, and it is impossible to argue that every and any asylum seeker should be let in, but many of the comments here are ludicrous and reflect the power of the right-wing media to create a sense of (newspaper selling) panic! To state that illegal immigrants contribute nothing to the economy because they don't pay tax is ludicrous. Many of us benefit, without realising it, from this exploited source of cheap labour
M G Bell, UK

Help Third World nations have self-sustaining economies

Stacey Turner, American in the UK
As an immigrant, I can hardly fault anyone for wanting to move to the UK. I was lucky...I was able to legally immigrate here. I'm certain that some of the asylum claimants are bogus, and what's sad is that they're colouring people's opinions of all asylum seekers and immigrants. If the Western world would do more to help Third World nations have self-sustaining economies, democratic governments, and an adequate education system, few would need to come here. That is the REAL issue.
Stacey Turner, American in the UK

It's pointless pretending that most of these people are genuine refugees when the government has admitted that 80% are economic migrants and the other 20% are coming from safe countries. The whole thing is a fiasco. They should be returned immediately; we have plenty of deserving poor of our own.
John W, UK/NZ

It is not a case of whether we should recognise refugees, but a case that BRITAIN IS FULL. There are 60 million people on a small island. When is enough, enough? 100 million? 250 million? It is not about what we should do, but what can we do? We should help these countries so there citizens have a better life there.
Sean B, Canada (ex England)

The government policy is welcome - though far too late

Sam Lloyd, Milton Keynes
First of all ask the residents of any area what happens to the house prices when refugees move in. The Dover and Folkestone area has become a dying town because of the refugees. As for employment, we are retiring our own British workers too early and using the refugees as cheap labour. The recent changes in government policy towards refugees is welcome - though I fear far too late.
Sam Lloyd, Milton Keynes

The world will continue to be a terribly unfair place and brutal repressive governments will continue to have their way until ALL humans have the right to travel, live, trade and work wherever they please.
Kulu, UK

Let's dispel the myth that a queue of rocket scientists is forming at Dover

Gareth, UK
Let's dispel the myth that a queue of rocket scientists and doctors is forming at Dover to get into a Britain that is crying out for skilled workers. Why can't we train our own citizens instead?
Gareth, UK

If asylum seekers worked for their living, many of the arguments here would not stand anymore. But at the moment, these individuals are not allowed to work and so get housed and fed. If asylum seekers can be made to work and pay tax - there is shortage in the skilled and unskilled workforce, believe it or not - I have no qualms about these people staying.

The UK currently has a rapidly ageing and decreasing population, the lowest unemployment for decades, medical and teaching staff shortages, and a strong economy. The vast majority of these asylum seekers are coming to make a better life for themselves. They can hardly be called work-shy as they more often than not come from countries where welfare is not an option. They come to this country only too happy to take whatever work is offered them and as a result start paying into the coffers of our nation. So why not welcome them in?
Kevin, UK

The government should get on with the job of expulsions quickly and efficiently and get done what the silent majority in GB want them to do. If they don't, they're in for a disappointment at the next election.
Derek, England

Accept them and give them jobs

Stu B, UK
We should accept them and give them jobs. Face it, people with this initiative and courage are desperately needed in this country.
Stu B, UK

Asylum seekers and refugees should be welcomed with open arms. Economic migrants should be sent back. Simple as that.
Steve Wade, UK

I would suggest that targeting those who organise, exploit and profit from human trafficking would be a more effective way of stopping the migration of immigrants and asylum seekers.
Steve, UK

If they are true refugees then of course they can seek refuge here. When their country is safe then they can return to it. However if they want to stay then they should go about the proceedings like any other person would wanting to emigrate. A distinction needs to be made, so harshness will be needed.
Simon, UK

I welcome anyone from any nationality who wants to make a better life for themselves. I've seen first-hand the positive influence that asylum seekers have on the local community. They bring enthusiasm, happiness, and a willing to build a better life for themselves.
Rob, England

If you put nothing in, you should get nothing back

Roger N, England
I think it would be great if so-called asylum seekers would pledge allegiance to our country but more often than not they contribute nothing more than a heavy strain on our already fledging health, social and criminal justice systems. If you put nothing in, you should get nothing back. Also the possibility of gender and ethnic imbalance should be seriously looked at before you mix a cocktail which could lead to serious consequences. I put this question to the doubters. Would you let a stranger into your own home?
Roger N, England

How typically hypocritical to condemn people from poorer countries who are seeking to make their lives better and yet at the same time applaud businesses that sell arms to the dictatorships they are fleeing from. We all want and deserve a better life for ourselves but the selfish attitude so often displayed here is that's only OK for UK whites - everyone else keep off. How disgusting!
Stephen Wey, UK

How saintly some of your younger viewers are about asylum issues. In fact there's always been a disturbing connection between British asylum and subversion against rightful foreign governments by own nationals. What is 'fleeing persecution' and what is fleeing the local police? We should aim to help to maintain the rule of law, beggars are seldom saints, and you see that on the streets of Britain. The deserving poor can be, that's the difference - only they're not middle class and affluent enough to afford the one-way fare to Britain are they?
Mr Martlesham, England

In debates like these, people show their true colours (no pun intended). If people actually think about what they are saying, they will realise that the countries that asylum seekers are fleeing from are places where the UK itself has caused destruction, notably Iraq. If you don't like refugees coming to Britain, stop interfering and lift sanctions on the countries which produce these unfortunate people.
Aftab Ali, UK

No, no, certainly no; we should welcome them and care for them lovingly. They are other people with souls and feelings.
Emily, UK

They certainly should be sent back from where they came. This country has difficulty founding our health service and giving pensioners a decent pension without having to support ones who in the majority, only come here as they know the UK is an easy touch.
J. Marcus, UK

This country has already got a failing health service, transport system and most OAPs, veterans and disabled British citizens are told the pittance they receive cannot be increased because of budgetary constraints. How then does the government suddenly find all this extra money to help those who have never paid into nor ever likely to contribute to this country. Should the homeless in this country be able to claim asylum in this country?

Many of them have been persecuted by our own benefits system which is meant to be fair and impartial, or they're left to fend for themselves on the streets because they don't have a permanent address, or some other minor problem which precludes them from receiving help? If you have never spent a night in December on the streets of a major city then you are oblivious to the hardships suffered by many British citizens, some of whom have served their country only to be overlooked in favour of providing funds and services for immigrants!!!
Derren, UK/US

It is appalling the way the British government pussyfoots around this issue

Jennifer, England
Most definitely asylum seekers who have their claim refused should be sent back to their country of origin. It is appalling the way the British government pussyfoots around this issue. I have no problem with granting asylum as well as welfare to those in genuine need, but the fact is the majority of people claiming asylum are doing so for their own financial gain. I know someone who is claiming asylum on the basis that he faces persecution in Iran because he sold copies of The Satanic Verses - his story is a complete fabrication. He just knows he'll have a nicer life in the West. It appals me the government seem to believe most of these stories.

Not only that, but those of us born in the UK seem to be getting the raw deal here. It is our tax that pays for these people to live here, claim legal aid, medical, food, housing, etc, etc, and yet if we went to any of their countries claiming we were being unfairly treated here I'm sure they would laugh in our face and send us packing. Why don't we apply a system like they do in the Gulf States? Give people three-year visas to come work here, then send them back after three years with the money they've earned to make a better life in their homeland?
Jennifer, England

Not in topic but, if I was to run through another country's border I'd expect to be greeted with armed guards, but yet this silly country STILL sees many immigrants just pouring in through a tunnel. Stop all this happening first whilst sorting out the political mess.
Stu, UK

Why are we letting ANY asylum seekers in from France? Surely if it were asylum they were seeking they should ask the French to provide it. The only real reason can be the financial security of Britain's no-questions-asked welfare state and the complete and utter failure to repatriate those who are seeking financial asylum rather than persecutorial asylum.
Edwin, Britain

No, we should not force people to go back to France where they will be possibly persecuted.
Ian, UK

Yes definitely - we must work for a common European strategy on this. The fact as has been stated, that many come here because they speak English (and not French or German) or already have family here is not our problem. Genuine asylum seekers seek safety and are safe any European Country. The question of family and language combined with our soft attitude to non genuine applicants makes this country a target - (hence the French attitude that we are contributing to the problem ourselves and they are just caught in the middle). Let's get our act together - look after those who need it and deal with the non-genuine ones promptly so that their friends back home get the message that only those genuinely in need of protection need bother trying.
John Baxter-Smith, England

The burden of asylum seekers should be spread across the whole EU

Giles Jones, UK
The burden of asylum seekers should be spread across the whole EU. Britain is a small but rich country and we have enough problems with overcrowding and transport already. If they are being oppressed and their lives are in danger then they will be happy to remain in France. The fact so many end up in the UK shows that many are financially driven.
Giles Jones, UK

I do agree with expulsion but there is also the issue of people whose applications are successful, I think that they should work in exchange for whatever benefits received. We are being told every day that there is a skill shortage in one industry or another (lately in hospitality sector etc). They should undergo a couple of introductory courses including English etc and then sent to work. I read in the Caterer and Hotels magazine that in the job centre, they were not been able to fill some vacancies a while ago, these vacancies can be filled that way.
Ebony Edale, UK

They are looking for the American dream, instead they find us here in bleak old England, trying to hold it together as best we can with what little money the state lets us keep. Over the past fifty years our greedy governments have destroyed our health care, education and transport infrastructures. Maybe we should all move to where the sun is shinning and leave these greedy foreigners to it.
Tanneth Moore, England

We recognise that these people are desperate but we must find alternative ways to help them, where possible

Graham Rodhouse, The Netherlands
I have every sympathy for most of these asylum seekers, but Britain simply cannot continue to take them at the present rate. Many not-so-genuine asylum seekers have abused the system, gained illegal entry into the country, and made life extremely difficult for people responsible for security on both sides of the channel. Companies that rely on the Channel Tunnel for the smooth running of their businesses have had their operations adversely affected by people trying to gain illegal entry. We recognise that these people are desperate but we must find alternative ways to help them, where possible.
Graham Rodhouse, The Netherlands

I can't put a criticism into words that won't be labelled racist

Graham, UK
If they have come through other safe countries they are not asylum seekers, they are illegal immigrants. If they have spent thousands of pounds to get here, they were probably not poverty stricken in the place they left and by having such an open door with such generous benefits an industry has been created. Yet British people returning from abroad have no rights to anything at all, as I recently found out. Most depressing of all is that I can't put a criticism into words that won't be labelled racist.
Graham, UK

If the French are 'concerned', then they won't mind taking back those asylum seekers whose first safe country of arrival was France. Then, the French can give them all the civil liberties they wish, in an attempt to teach the British and the world a moral lesson (forget that the French's bungling immigration mess is the reason Le Pen edged out Jospin!).
Jamie Bessich, USA

I am a foreigner and I live in the UK on the basis of having worked legally here for a few years. I believe that most of the foreigners who come here from countries like France only do so to exploit the social security system designed to help the needy of this country. Any genuine asylum seeker who reaches a country like France (or any other European country for that matter) should be more than happy to be granted a safe haven in that country. Why should he/she risk his/her life and the lives of others to get smuggled into the UK other than to achieve more than a safe haven? I really think that asylum seekers coming to the UK through European countries should be made to return to those countries, unless they have exceptional circumstances, whatever that may be.

Britain gained a lot from having the British Empire and now its only fair they give something back, it is the right of every citizen who had their country invaded and taken over to claim asylum here.
Basa, UK

In response to Basa, Britain having had an Empire does not justify opening our borders. She misses the fact that by allowing the best and brightest of impoverished countries to come here to work is detrimental to those countries prosperity in the future.
Ian, UK

Is it just me who sees the contradiction here? The government plans to send asylum seekers whose case is unfounded back to their country of origin, or to an intermediate safe country if they would be in danger by going back to their own country. But if they would be in danger in their own country, don't they have a good case for asylum by definition?
Adam, UK

These people are human beings - who have often spent thousands of pounds in payment to unscrupulous agents to travel in highly dangerous and unpleasant conditions to try and get to this country. Put yourself in their place for a moment and think about how bad things would have to get in your homeland to push you into travelling across the world in packing cases or strapped to the undercarriage of planes. And then think about how you would feel if after having reached here in these terrible conditions you get sent back to your country of origin without even the chance of an appeal before you go. Britain is treating these people worse than cattle.
Kate Ahrens, UK

We have an obligation to look after refugees under international law

Joe Cribbin, UK
No we should not expel all refugees. We have an obligation to look after refugees under international law. As regards processing their claims for asylum, this needs to speeded up for the sake of everyone concerned. However, simply denying them the right to appeal is a knee-jerk reaction to public opinion stirred up the press. We should not let the right wing elements of society dictate the agenda as in other parts of Europe. Instead we should lead by example with compassion and understanding for those less fortunate than ourselves.
Joe Cribbin, UK

If asylum seekers were seeking just that - asylum - they would take refuge in the nearest 'safe' country to their own. Why is it they are hellbent on leaving France - a respectable and diplomatic country - and entering this one? It's because they know our system of asylum is a complete mess and they can live off our state while the government messes up what should really be an easy thing to do.
Douglas Ellison, UK

If refugees were forced to claim asylum in the first safe country they entered, then relatively underdeveloped countries which are unfortunate enough to be near oppressive regimes would bear a disproportionately high burden. If refugees can move on through a number of safe countries before making their claim, surely a system is needed to ensure wealthy developed countries share the burden of new citizens equitably?
Rick, UK

I have no problem with genuine asylum seekers and their need for refuge, but it infuriates me that those who do not have a case get to appeal in this country - and then before it happens, 'disappear', never to be seen again by the asylum system. It makes it difficult for those who genuinely need help to be embraced by the nation.
Katie, England

If an application is unsuccessful first time round, why would it be successful after an appeal?

Janet, UK
Yes - if their case has been marked 'clearly unfounded' then they should be returned immediately to the country of origin - or nearest safe country. If an application is unsuccessful first time round, why would it be successful after an appeal? Why pay for them to stay another six months or so when they will be deported anyway, costing us not only the deportation costs, but also the cost of keeping them here for the extra length of time? If they're genuine - let them stay and welcome. Also, let's get the other 250,000+ illegal immigrants rounded up and sent back. Even if they're working, they cant be contributing to society, as they can't have legal tax and insurance papers
Janet, UK

Yes, they certainly should be expelled. To not do so is not only unfair to the existing population of this country but also to people in other countries in genuine need of asylum. Anyone coming via another safe country should be automatically sent back immediately. The governments of Europe should jointly negotiate a scheme for distributing asylum seekers fairly across the continent.
Martin, England

It was a round planet the last time I looked. I don't think we have any right to call ourselves an evolved and social species as long as we allow something so false, something so arbitrary and a cause of so much suffering as international borders to exist on a planet we all share. Call me naive but I don't think I'm alone in believing this.
Douglas Murray, Scotland

Douglas Murray expresses noble sentiments but he ought to bear in mind that there are literally hundreds of millions of disadvantaged people around the world, who (understandably) want to find a better life in places like Britain. If we abolish our borders, what will he do when they all turn up on our doorstep?
Paul, UK

We can't be seen as an inhumane nation

Bill Selsey, Rayleigh, Essex
We should welcome these people with open arms, they have the right to be here. We can't be seen as an inhumane nation. These people are victims and our country, amongst others, should have an open door to these sufferers.
Bill Selsey, Rayleigh, Essex

If you are looking for a place to house them, what about the Dome?
Jill, UK

At last - action from the UK Government! Fast track processing of claims and then fast track exits for those denied asylum! Why does it need to take 6 months to process a claim? Whilst I feel sorry for those people who are genuine refugees, the system has been abused by the majority for far too long - the EU must take more action in the future.
Marc Walker, Reading, UK

What a silly question, it depends on the personal circumstances of each individual case. Clearly some refugees should stay, others should not. Let's be sensible. There shouldn't be an argument of expelling them all, or letting all of them stay.
Mark Mackey, England

Asylum seekers who have applied and seen their request rejected are not considered as refugees but illegal immigrants. In the eye of the law, they should therefore be repatriated. The system however is not perfect and mistakes can be made. It is a difficult issue.
Pascal Jacquemain, UK (French)

We should grant temporary residence visas

Mark, UK
If we are to be truly sympathetic to the cause of real asylum seekers we should grant those who need asylum temporary residence visas. When the country they flee from becomes 'safe' to return, they should get a free but mandatory ticket home. If they wish to stay longer, their case should be heard by the same rules we apply to genuine migrants who are not seeking asylum - then if they don't measure up to our entry criteria, they should be deported.
Mark, UK

Definitely. We have far too many economic migrants who come here, after travelling through numerous safe countries because of what they can get out of the system for nothing. I have a friend who lived abroad for a number of years. On returning to the UK she was denied unemployment benefit because she had not paid enough in. Yet when refugees get here they get all the benefits and most never contribute to the country.
Helen, UK

I despise the double standards shown by so many of the so-called civilised countries to asylum issues. They see no contradiction between the fact they allow their multinationals to cross borders with impunity, exploit workers and allow companies to export weapons of torture to unstable countries. Then when the people themselves want to go in search of a better life they hit a brick. So much for the global village.
Michael, Scotland

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See also:

30 May 02 | UK Politics
28 Jan 02 | UK Politics
25 May 02 | UK Politics
23 May 02 | UK Politics
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