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Thursday, 19 September, 2002, 02:28 GMT 03:28 UK
Blunkett's 'go home' call sparks row
Young asylum seekers
Mr Blunkett is urging asylum seekers to return home
David Blunkett has walked into a fresh row over immigration after he told young asylum seekers to "get back home" and start rebuilding their countries.


We are freeing countries of different religions and cultural backgrounds and making it possible for them to get back home and rebuild their countries

David Blunkett
The home secretary said he had "no sympathy" for young men arriving in the UK from war-torn countries such as Afghanistan and Kosovo.

These countries had been "freed from tyranny" and the young should get on with rebuilding them, the home secretary said.

His comments were branded "simplistic" by immigration campaigners.

'Over-ambitious' targets

They were also attacked by the Liberal Democrats, who while agreeing asylum seekers should return home when it was safe to do so, said simply telling them to do so "would never succeed".


It is very unfortunate that the Secretary of State takes such a devastatingly simplistic view of asylum

Habib Rahman, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants
Mr Blunkett's comments came as he admitted to MPs the government's pledge to remove 30,000 failed asylum seekers a year was "massively over-ambitious" and simply not achievable.

'No sympathy'

Mr Blunkett said: "If these people are dynamic and well-qualified, and I don't dispute that they are, they should get back home and recreate their countries that we freed from tyranny, whether it be Kosovo or now Afghanistan.

"We are freeing countries of different religions and cultural backgrounds and making it possible for them to get back home and rebuild their countries.

"I have no sympathy whatsoever with young people in their 20s who do not get back home and rebuild their country and their families."

His comments were branded "simplistic" by Habib Rahman, Chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

'Well-founded fears'

"It is very unfortunate that the Secretary of State takes such a devastatingly simplistic view of asylum," he said.

Simon Hughes
Mr Hughes says resettlement takes time
"Afghan people were fleeing the Taleban before - and now they are still not safe because there are pockets of Taleban remaining and other people who would persecute them.

"Even the new president Hamid Karzai is not safe, as we saw with the recent assassination attempt.

"So it is for the courts to determine whether people have a well-founded fear of persecution."

Blunkett 'will never succeed'

Simon Hughes, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman said: "Of course Britain can't be a permanent home to fit and healthy people whose countries are ready to take them back.

"But simply telling asylum seekers to go home and hoping they will do so has never succeeded and never will succeed."

He said no one could expect people fleeing countries like Afghanistan or Kosovo to return within days or even weeks of a peace treaty being signed.

"Return and resettlement needs time and encouragement and patience and international coordination," he added.

Training people and providing them with "useful skills" in the meantime would not only help their own country if they returned but also the UK, if they were allowed to stay, he argued.

Latest Home Office figures show 9,630 asylum seekers were removed in 2001-2002, or 11,600 including dependants such as children or spouses.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"David Blunkett didn't mince his words"
Oliver Letwin, Shadow Home Secretary
"The home secretary is up a creek without a paddle"

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17 Sep 02 | Politics
18 Sep 02 | Politics
30 Aug 02 | World at One
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