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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 August 2006, 15:56 GMT 16:56 UK
UK race chief in ghetto apology
Trevor Phillips
Trevor Phillips came under fire after last year's speech
The head of Britain's race watchdog has apologised for how he presented an academic report that suggested racial segregation is increasing in the UK.

Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, warned last year that Britain could see racial ghettos similar to the US.

But experts accused him of trivialising the racial problems seen in the US and exaggerating those in the UK.

Mr Phillips stressed his fears over segregation were supported by evidence.

In a wide-ranging speech to the Royal Geographical Society's annual conference, Mr Phillips said it was right to ask hard questions about multicultural Britain - but to do so on the basis of hard evidence rather than fear or hearsay.

He praised last week's launch of a commission on integration, saying we could not pretend that a more diverse society did not bring with it any costs.

He said Britain must not confuse "domestic tourism", as seen with the success of the Notting Hill Carnival, with "genuine experience" of people from diverse backgrounds.

And failure to know each other, he argued, meant it was harder to solve critical social problems.

Someone who does not know any black families would find it hard to understand the anger surrounding the over-representation of black men in jails, he said.

Policy is all too often driven by panic, by political expediency or by whim
Trevor Phillips

But in his speech, Mr Phillips turned to the controversy he sparked in September 2005 when he warned Britain was "sleepwalking into segregation".

Mr Phillips had warned some areas could become "fully-fledged ghettos", with racial divisions approaching those seen in parts of the US.

These areas would be "black holes into which no-one goes without fear or trepidation and from which no-one ever escapes undamaged".

Mr Phillips partly based that claim on research by Dr Mike Poulsen of Macquarie University, Australia, who had suggested "ethnic enclaves" were growing in the UK.

Dr Poulsen did not however say that Britain had ghettos, areas where there is little or no racial mixing on any level.

'Policymaking by panic'

Mr Phillips said: "I should ... apologise to Mike for mangling his work a little in a speech I made last September - and for his graciousness in accepting that even if my account of his presentation here was a little off, that the conclusions I drew were consistent with his findings."

Mr Phillips however defended his position, saying segregation was a growing issue amid a failure by policymakers and the media to properly understand how society was changing.

"As a result policy is all too often driven by panic, by political expediency or by whim.

"And worst of all, far from the honest debate that [Communities Secretary] Ruth Kelly called for, we have a public argument which is the equivalent of shadow boxing."

Mr Phillips said that much of the debate around segregation, integration and faith schools was "hypocrisy" because it focused on Muslim communities rather than Christian institutions as well.

People had to make up their minds whether they wanted faith schools or not.

He warned against calls for racial profiling of air passengers, saying the CRE could use its legal powers to challenge such a move.

Speaking to the BBC, Dr Poulsen said that he had no argument with Mr Phillips' view that segregation had increased, but that "crossed wires" amid a media and political storm surrounding his research had led to public confusion.

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