BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Wednesday, 21 August, 2002, 00:13 GMT 01:13 UK
Bishop backs asylum plans
Oakington asylum seeker accommodation centre
Oakington: Used to hold asylum seekers

One of the UK's most senior black church leaders has backed the government's controversial plans to hold asylum seekers and educate their children in special centres before their cases are decided upon.


I'd rather there was a caring place than having these refuges who can't speak English suddenly being pushed into the community

Bishop John Sentamu
Dr John Sentamu, the Bishop-elect of Birmingham, said in a BBC interview, that if asylum seekers were suddenly dropped into communities they could become the victim of "unwitting ugliness".

The Uganda-born clergyman told BBC Radio 4's 50 Years On programme, that there were people in Britain who wanted to exploit asylum seekers for their own ends.

But Bishop Sentamu rejected criticisms, including some by MPs, that separate education of children from asylum-seeking families was a form of apartheid - instead it would help prepare them to integrate should they stay in the country.

Bishop Sentamu
Bishop Sentamu: Anti-racism campaigner
"I think to call that apartheid is really over the top," said Dr Sentamu, currently Bishop of Stepney.

"I visited Oakington [accommodation centre] and saw quite a lot of asylum seekers there, children being taught properly, learning, appreciating their own culture.

"I thought that was a very imaginative programme.

"What is important when you come to a country where you don't speak their language, is to learn English, be able to learn properly and be taught instead of some places, where you may actually become a victim of other people, because they don't understand you."

'Loving environment'

The bishop said that he believed the centres could provide a "loving environment", protecting asylum seekers from further trauma.

David Blunkett
David Blunkett: Proposals criticised
"I'd rather there was a caring place than having these refuges who can't speak English suddenly being pushed into the community.

"They could become victims of unwitting ugliness in our society, and therefore I don't see that as being apartheid.

"What would be apartheid is when they've been given the right to remain, to set up special schools for those given the right to remain as asylum seekers."

Under the Home Secretary's proposals, asylum seekers will be required to take English lessons.

Those applying for British citizenship will take exams on various aspects of the UK and its society and ultimately attend a ceremony where they will swear an oath of allegiance.

Similar arrangements exist in other countries.

However, one report by MPs says the proposals violate the Human Rights Act in 14 separate areas, including the plans to educate children in accommodation centres rather than schools.

The Refugee Council has attacked the proposals, saying that they concentrate on removing failed applicants and do little to overhaul the system to protect legitimate asylum seekers.

The measures have already passed their Commons stages - despite opposition from some backbenchers - and go back before the Lords in the autumn.



You can hear the interview in full on BBC Radio 4's 50 Years On programme, Wednesday at 9am, repeated at 9.30pm, on or demand at the Radio 4's website.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Dr John Sentamu
"To call that apartheid is really over the top."

Click here to go to BBC Birmingham Online
See also:

11 Jun 02 | England
07 Feb 02 | Politics
21 Jun 02 | Politics
11 Jun 02 | Politics
25 Apr 02 | Politics
Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes