Bill barring refugees' children from school 'risks adding fuel to racist fire'

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Indy Politics

The new asylum Bill could act as "kindling for the fire" of racists inspired by the election boost of the French National Front, a prominent black figure warned yesterday.

Bill Morris, the general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, said the proposal to bar children of refugees from state nursery and primary schools proved that ministers were more interested in political expediency than compassion.

Mr Morris launched a coalition to oppose the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill, which has its second reading in the Commons tomorrow. Eight groups, including Oxfam, the Children's Society, the British Medical Association, Save the Children and the Refugee Council, have joined the TGWU.

Under the Bill, asylum-seekers' children would be forced to go to specially built "accommodation centres" instead of mainstream schools. Local education authorities would have no duty to provide an education or to assess youngsters with special needs.

The coalition also opposes the Bill's measures to end automatic bail hearings for adult asylum-seekers and the proposals to detain families with children against their will.

Mr Morris, who led the campaign to end the asylum voucher system last year, said that, when the Bill was debated, the Government and MPs had to send a clear message that racists would not be tolerated. He said: "Now Le Pen and his brand of far-right hatred and division loom over the Channel and cast a dismal shadow over our local elections. The Government must look to its asylum policies. If they discriminate against or ostracise those who come here from other lands, the racists will hoard them as kindling for the fire they seek to light in our communities."

The coalition believes the Bill breaches the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which says all children have a universal and equal right to education.

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