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Wednesday, 31 October, 2001, 17:58 GMT
'Nazi' jibe at asylum seekers plan
Asylum seekers
Asylum seekers will be required to carry smart cards
A politician has sparked a furious reaction from opponents by likening identification cards for asylum seekers to the yellow Star of David worn by Jews in Nazi Germany.

Kenneth Gibson, of the Scottish National Party, condemned the UK Government's proposal to introduce smart cards carrying fingerprints and photographs.

The MSP told the Scottish Parliament that ministers appeared to be targeting asylum seekers in an unfair way.

Asylum seekers need respect. They must be treated with humanity

Kenneth Gibson, SNP MSP
His reference to the yellow Star of David, which persecuted Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany, was immediately seized upon by Labour opponents.

Mr Gibson's remarks came after Social Justice Minister Jackie Baillie announced that a new body would be set up to oversee asylum seekers' services.

The minister also praised Home Secretary David Blunkett's announcement of a series of reforms to the asylum and immigration services, including the introduction of the cards and the scrapping of the voucher system of benefits.

However, Mr Gibson, a regional MSP for Glasgow, said the cards were "the modern equivalent" of the yellow star.

Kenneth Gibson
Kenneth Gibson: Condemned proposals
Mike Watson, the Labour MSP for Glasgow Cathcart, called on Mr Gibson to "withdraw the disgraceful remark".

Labour MSP Frank McAveety, who represents Glasgow Shettleston, asked: "Are you seriously suggesting that any of this scheme equates with Nazi genocide?"

But Mr Gibson refused to concede and said the smart cards would stigmatise asylum seekers in the same way the yellow star had stigmatised Jews.

He said: "The yellow star was used throughout the centuries to identify certain ethnic minorities or people with religious differences.

"It appears to me that asylum seekers are being specifically targeted."

'Undermined argument'

Mr Gibson said the government could have done more to help asylum seekers adapt to life in the UK by providing translation services and specially-trained social workers.

He said: "Asylum seekers need respect. They must be treated with humanity."

Tory MSP Phil Gallie said Mr Gibson's comments were "totally over the top and undermined the argument".

Fiona Hyslop, SNP regional MSP for the Lothians, suggested the Scottish Parliament should go it alone and bring in legislation allowing local councils to give cash to asylum seekers.

She added: "If you go into a small corner shop to buy a loaf of bread with your electronic card, of course you're going to be different.

"It's still a distinguishing feature like the voucher system."

See also:

31 Oct 01 | Scotland
New help body for refugees
29 Oct 01 | Scotland
Concern over asylum seeker plans
26 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Immigrants 'to take citizen classes'
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