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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 July, 2004, 16:18 GMT 17:18 UK
Police sorry over asylum report
Pc Caroline Pope
Pc Caroline Pope made the comments at a meeting in Medway
A policewoman has told councillors in Medway that the number of asylum seekers is five or six times greater than official figures.

At a meeting for asylum groups, Pc Caroline Pope said crime had risen and asylum seekers were in part to blame.

But Medway Council and the Kent Refugee Action Network said asylum numbers had gone down dramatically in recent years.

Kent Police said comments attributed to Pc Pope had been selective and ignored her efforts to build safer communities.

I have every inclination to believe the official figures
Ben Bano, Kent Refugee Action Network

The meeting was organised by the council to bring together groups which deal with asylum seekers.

Pc Pope was reported as saying for every one asylum seeker supported in the area there were probably five or six who were squatting.

She said the Pentagon Shopping Centre in Chatham had become a "no-go" area for many people because it was a meeting point for gangs of asylum seekers.

And she said the council figures on asylum seekers were out of date.

Judith Armitt, Medway Council chief executive said: "The chief constable of Kent Police) has apologised to me this morning that that report was made at the committee meeting.

"And indeed I shop in Chatham and Chatham is certainly not a "no go" area."

'Isolated and excluded'

In a statement, Kent Police said: "Comments attributed to one of our officers were selective and ignored her efforts, and those of others at the meeting, to put specific information in context as part of their work to build, rather than undermine safer communities.

"People from minority groups, including asylum seekers, may feel isolated and excluded in our community and are more likely to be the victims of crime rather than the cause."

The statement also said there were no "no go" areas in Kent and Medway.

Ben Bano, from Kent Refugee Action Network, said: "The evidence shows the number of asylum seekers in Kent has decreased dramatically over the last few years.

"That is not least because of the dispersal system which means newly arrived asylum seekers go elsewhere in the UK."

"I have every inclination to believe the official figures."




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