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Monday, 14 August, 2000, 09:36 GMT 10:36 UK
Government 'gives comfort' to racists
Romanian asylum seekers arrive in the UK
The government is being criticised over asylum seekers
The UK Government is being accused by civil rights groups of giving comfort to racists.

A group of 28 organisations including Liberty and the Refugee Council is handing in a dossier to the United Nations on the human rights record of the government.

It says black people are not being sufficiently protected from the police or in the work place. Turning to the government's record on asylum and immigration, the group accuses the government of "giving comfort to racists".

But the Home Office insists tackling racism is a "priority".

The charges come as Home Office officials are in Geneva, where they are being questioned by the UN Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Race Discrimination (CERD) about the UK's progress in implementing recommendations made by CERD in 1997.

CERD will be publishing its latest report on the UK in the next few weeks.

Campaigners' recommendations

There are 49 recommendations made in the report which is co-ordinated by Liberty and anti-racist body the 1990 Trust.

Among those who contributed to the report were the Refugee Council, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and relatives of black people who have died in police custody.

Their demands include the end of detention for asylum seekers and the creation of an independent police complaints authority.

On Labour's 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act the report said it "created racial tensions rather than racial harmony".

And the government's dispersal of asylum seekers around the UK and making them use food vouchers instead of giving them cash, has "stigmatised" them and led to incidents of harassment, says the report.

Areas under scrutiny

The campaigners also point out that black people are six times more likely to be stopped and searched by police, are over-represented in the jail population and often receive longer jail sentences than those given to whites or Asians.

The report highlights an increase in racial attacks over recent years, with surveys suggesting that 40% of Britain's ethnic minority community have suffered harassment.

Over areas of discrimination include, it says, education, with black pupils more likely to face exclusion from schools, and discrimination in the work place.

There are few black MPs and no members from ethnic minorities in the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "The government has made no secret of the fact that all public services, including government departments, can and should do more to promote racial equality and tackle discrimination.

"This is a priority for the government and we have put in place a radical programme of reform which will have far-reaching effects in all public services."

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