Race relations `damaged by outcry over asylum seekers'

PUBLIC HYSTERIA over a perceived threat to Britain from the recent influx of asylum seekers could cause lasting damage to race relations, charities said last night.

The warnings came as a hotel where a group of asylum seekers was housed confirmed yesterday it had been besieged with complaints from guests and the public.

The public hostility followed a front-page story in The Sun, headlined "Inn-sane", which condemned the decision to allow 21 Romanian women and child refugees to spend a night in the hotel.

The refugees stayed at the pounds 65-a-night Inn on the Lake, near Gravesend in Kent, after they were discovered among a group of 103 people packed into a goods lorry at the container terminal at Dartford.

The hotel, concerned by the effects of the bad publicity, is planning legal action against Kent County Council, which has moved the asylum seekers under police guard to a secret location. The male Romanians are being held in a detention centre.

Charities working with refugees said last night that animosity towards refugees had reached levels not witnessed in several years.

They blamed tabloid newspapers and immigration service officials for colluding in an anti-immigrant campaign.

Sherman Carroll, of the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, said: "There's no doubt that the general climate of fear and hatred they are trying to create against asylum seekers is having a negative effect on the rehabilitation of torture survivors."

The number of refugees heading for Britain appears to be on the increase.

The Immigration Service Union predicted yesterday that more asylum seekers than the previous annual record of 45,000 in 1995 would reach Britain this year.

With the Government's Immigration and Asylum Bill - promising a crackdown on immigration - only weeks away, a propaganda war is being waged between hard-pressed immigration officers concerned by the influx of economic migrants and groups that believe more sympathy should be shown to refugees.

Seizing on the debate, tabloid newspapers have run a series of articles complaining that "gypsies" and refugees have been allowed hospital treatment and "luxury" accommodation. The Daily Mail last week ran a front-page expose of criminal activities undertaken by refugees under the headline "Brutal crimes of the asylum seekers".

Part of the difficulty for refugee charities is that many recent immigrants have arrived not from war-zones, but fleeing racial persecution.

The public sympathy that existed for the victims of conflict in Rwanda and Bosnia has not been so forthcoming for the gypsy immigrants from Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Refugees from Eastern European are still outnumbered by those from Africa and the Middle East, but they have been painted as "economic migrants", casting doubts on the veracity of all asylum seekers.

Nick Hardwick, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: "The reason we have an obligation to these people is that in the Thirties, when the gypsies fled the Nazis, they were turned back at the borders and ended up in concentration camps. The international community said that it should never happen again."

Privately, refugee groups admit their cause is not helped by the increasingly common sight of gypsy immigrants begging on the streets of London.

Alasdair Mackenzie, the co-ordinator of Asylum Aid, predicted that public antipathy towards asylum seekers would grow as the Government pursued its policy of dispersing them to towns and cities around the country.

He said: "Local authorities are having to bear the costs, which leads to local papers writing nasty pieces."

But John Tincey, of the Immigration Service Union, said yesterday that his colleagues were being overwhelmed.

He called for new reception centres to be created to give shelter to asylum seekers and said potential economic migrants could be dissuaded by preventing them from earning money in this country.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Chelsea are interested in loaning out Romelu Lukaku to Everton again next season
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?