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Saturday, 23 February, 2002, 12:28 GMT
UK's anti-racism policies 'failing'
Stephen Lawrence
Stephen Lawrence was killed in a racist attack in 1993
Institutional racism has not been tackled by the government and a 'blame the victim' culture has emerged instead, a conference marking the third anniversary of the Stephen Lawrence report has heard.

Race relations expert Lee Jasper said government policy has failed and he accused Home Secretary David Blunkett of making a string of "offensive" suggestions about Britain's black and Asian communities.

He criticised the government for "telling us who we can and cannot marry, what language we should speak, for forcing some of us have to prove our allegiance to Britain through tests".

Stephen's mother Doreen Lawrence addressed the conference, revealing that she too has become the victim of racists and fears for her safety.

Her 18-year-old son was killed at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London, in a racist attack by a gang of white youths in April 1993

'No evidence'

Mr Jasper, secretary of the National Assembly Against Racism (NAAR), said: "Three years is a very long time to make deep-rooted changes to the nature of our institutions.

Instead of tangible action against racism, we see the 'blame the victim' culture back on the agenda

Lee Jasper

"Yet we have not seen the evidence of change when it comes to tackling institutional racism.

"Instead of tangible action against racism, we see the 'blame the victim' culture back on the agenda."

Mr Jasper's comments follow the publication of Mr Blunkett's White Paper on immigration and citizenship earlier this month.

It said immigrants should have to take compulsory tests on language and British society.

The home secretary courted further controversy when he said Asian families should make arranged marriages within "the settled community here" rather than looking abroad.

Hate mail

Mrs Lawrence arrived at the conference with a police bodyguard after the NAAR received racist hate mail about her.

Doreen Lawrence
Stephen's mother Doreen has received hate mail
She said: "There is added pressure thinking about myself and how safe I feel. Most of the time I don't feel safe."

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "We can confirm the organisers of today's conference, the NAAR, sent out leaflets advertising the conference, some of which was returned to them with racist comments written on them.

"Those comments were generalised and did not refer to named individuals."

Mrs Lawrence criticised those police officers who said the Lawrence report had made it difficult for them to do their jobs.

She said the report had lost its importance for many people and added: "Three years on... people still want to know what has happened and which of the recommendations are in place."

Racist offences

A Home Office spokeswoman said a third annual report on progress made since the Lawrence Report would soon be published.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police, which was harshly criticised in the Lawrence report, said the number of racist offences reported and cleared up has since increased dramatically.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Grieve said: "The sheer volume of racist incidents being reported to us show that people are reporting crimes to us that they weren't reporting three years ago, and we're arresting more than 200 people a month for hate crime, which benefits all of us."

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