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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 June, 2003, 12:59 GMT 13:59 UK
Complex truth behind Wrexham riots

By Wyre Davies
BBC Wales correspondent

The Red Dragon Pub
Bricks were thrown outside The Red Dragon pub
To blame the dramatic events of the last two nights in Wrexham solely on tensions between local residents and Iraqi refugees would be both simplistic and misleading.

That's certainly the opinion of local police and community leaders who have, admittedly, been taken by surprise at the ferocity and intensity of the trouble.

True, it does appear that an alleged incident between a refugee and some locals may have been the spark that lit Sunday night's violence, but Wrexham is not Burnley or Bradford.

There is no history of acute racial tension on the impoverished and tough Caia Park Estate - certainly nothing to compare with the experiences of some towns in the north of England.

Riots 'a tragedy'

Some of the 60 or so Iraqi Kurds who have been housed on the estate in recent years do talk of intolerance, abuse and fear.

The heady mix of hot summer nights, alcohol and a dozen angry young men is surely what was largely to blame for the violence
Wyre Davies

None of this should be tolerated - and there is evidence that the local authorities took their eyes off the situation on the estate, once the largely single-male refugee population had been housed.

But it has become clear that far bigger and long-standing factors than racial intolerance lay behind the rioting of the last two nights.

As the leader of Wrexham Borough Council, Shan Wilkinson, said: "The riots were a tragedy."

She added: "What we saw is not that different from when you see mobs of people hunting for paedophiles.

"It happens in hot weather, rumours fly around and people get angry.

"The community leaders, police, the schools and the church need to work together to see that people get the real facts."

Sink-hole

The Caia Park Estate is one of the largest and most troubled of its kind in the country - with high levels of unemployment and acute social problems.

Wrexham is quite clearly a place with many problems that require urgent attention and remedy.
Wyre Davies

Quite clearly, something has gone wrong and the estate has become a sink-hole for many of the town's long-term and festering problems.

The heady mix of hot summer nights, alcohol and a dozen angry young men is surely what was largely to blame for the violence.

It left four policemen and a cameraman injured and 14 people under arrest - a figure certain to rise as police methodically round up the alleged trouble makers.

'Grossly unfair'

It is a tragedy that the refugees - most of who fled northern Iraq as Saddam Hussein systematically persecuted the Kurdish population - have now had to be moved on again from Wrexham to Stoke and surrounding towns.

Wrexham is quite clearly a place with many problems that require urgent attention and remedy.

But to label its residents as racist and intolerant would be grossly unfair and misleading.


WATCH AND LISTEN
Bill Brereton, North Wales Police
"People should not have to put up with this"


Aled Roberts, Mayor of Wrexham
"We had little indication this kind of thing was going to happen"



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