Letter: Asylum policy

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Sir: Jack Straw and his Shadow Cabinet colleagues were unequivocal in their opposition, on both moral and practical terms, to the Tory government's withdrawal of welfare benefits to a large percentage of asylum seekers in February 1996. It was a measure which they considered tantamount to an attempt to starve them out of the country. Now, just over a year after taking office, they have gone even further than the Tories in proposing to terminate cash payments to all asylum seekers, allegedly to deter economic migrants.

The Government's newly released White Paper on the entire asylum and immigration sector is entitled "Fairer, Faster and Firmer" and repeats this mantra over and over again as only New Labour's zealots can. As long as torture victims have their medical reports rubbished by the Home Office, failed asylum seekers are sent back to countries like Algeria, where 100,000 have died since 1991, and refugees are locked up without ever having committed a crime, I believe that "Cost-cutting, Crackdown and Control" would be a more apt soundbite for this Government's asylum and immigration policy.


London N2