Anger over police chief's 'emotive' talk on migrants

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One of Britain's most senior police officers was accused of exaggerating the damaging impact of immigration yesterday by declaring that mass migration was threatening to "overwhelm" some towns and cities by creating a "whole new range" of crimes.

One of Britain's most senior police officers was accused of exaggerating the damaging impact of immigration yesterday by declaring that mass migration was threatening to "overwhelm" some towns and cities by creating a "whole new range" of crimes.

Chris Fox, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), had said that immigration was contributing to organised drug dealing, prostitution and fraud in Britain. He went on to describe the influx of asylum-seekers from the former Sangatte refugee camp as a "tidal wave".

A spokeswoman for the Refugee Council accused Mr Fox of "demonising" asylum seekers, and insisted that his comments conflicted with Acpo guidelines which tell officers that most asylum-seekers are law abiding.

She said: "There is a lot of scaremongering about the issue of asylum. These comments are not really based on the reality of the situation."

The Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, Simon Hughes, condemned the use of "inaccurate and emotive language" about the asylum issue. Downing Street, meanwhile, tried to play down Mr Fox's comments, arguing that he was combining arguments about asylum policy with those of illegal immigration and organised crime. Figures for asylum applications, expected to be published on Thursday, are likely to show a sharp fall in the number of new cases.

The Home Office refused to confirm reports that the number of new cases had fallen to 5,000 a month for the first quarter of this year, well on the way to Tony Blair's target of 4,500 by October. But ministers have indicated that the number has fallen from 6,670 a month reported at the start of the year, itself well down on the 9,000 monthly figure in the October before Mr Blair announced his pledge this year.

Speaking before Acpo's annual conference, Mr Fox reignited the row over asylum. "Mass migration has brought with it a whole new type of crime, from the Nigerian fraudster and the eastern European who deals in drugs and prostitution to the Jamaican concentration on drug dealing."

He told The Observer that the movement of people across the world had increased problems of international crime and warned that some towns and cities were struggling to cope.

He said: "The mass movement of people has made it worse. Now it is accepted that you move from country to country and people do so for security, safety and to avoid terror. Among them there will be people who aren't moving for those purposes.

"This mass movement brings with it the opportunity for criminals to move and the opportunity for criminals to make money ... We have some very, very intensely populated areas and I think we have to be careful about just how we let the mix develop.

"It's a healthy situation that we've got lots of different people in different communities, but if you go into some of the cities ­ looking at the north ­ Bradford simmers and Blackburn simmers.

It does not take too much to disturb the balance. We have to be careful to make sure we're not overwhelming our current infrastructure."

But Mr Hughes said: "Chief police officers, like politicians, must be very careful not to exaggerate difficulties or problems. There has never been a tidal wave of asylum-seekers coming to Europe or to Britain and it is quite wrong to pretend otherwise."

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