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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 April, 2003, 10:47 GMT 11:47 UK
Migrants 'swamp' UK - Tory
The leader of the Conservatives in Wales has claimed Britain is being "swamped" by asylum-seekers.

Leader of the Tories in the Welsh Assembly, Nick Bourne told BBC Radio Wales on Tuesday that people felt overwhelmed by the number of migrants seeking sanctuary in Britain.

"It is an issue of great concern for those of us who feel there is a part to play for genuine asylum-seekers," he said.

"But we don't want to be swamped by the massive numbers we have seen coming in so far," he went on.

Mr Bourne later denied exaggerating and opposition parties have criticised his comments as "very extreme" and unhelpful.

"I was very careful in my choice of language," he said.

This kind of language is not helpful
Labour Party spokesman

"People do feel swamped. It is a very real concern. Obviously, genuine asylum-seekers are welcome.

"But a great many are not genuine. They are economic migrants.

"I am proud of being British as are most people including asylum-seekers.

"But it does not assist good race relations by not talking about it and saying there was not a problem. People are rightly concerned about it."

The number of asylum-seekers arriving in Britain reached record levels of almost 111,000 during 2002.

Meanwhile figures across the EU as a whole fell by 1% during the year compared with a 20% rise in the UK.

A record number of 8,900 people claimed asylum last October. That figure will form the basis for Prime Minister Tony Blair's pledge to halve the number of asylum-seekers by September.

Liberal Democrat leader Mike German said he thought such comments were "very extreme indeed".

"This seems a strange card to play for the Welsh elections," he said. "The Conservatives must sense they are losing the battle on policy and are instead falling back on the "core" support strategy that failed so badly for William Hague in the 2001 general election."

A Labour Party spokesman criticised Mr Bourne's comments. "This kind of language is not helpful," he said.

"In practical terms, Britain was mid-table in the European league in terms of the number of asylum-seekers."

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