Leading ethnic minority figures from the world of arts, culture, law and media yesterday backed Bill Morris' attack on the Government's asylum and immigration policies.
A cross section of people from black, Asian and other ethnic groups agreed that Labour's handling of the race issue was a matter for concern. Lord Dholakia, Chairman of the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders and the Liberal Democrats' Home Affairs spokesman in the House of Lords said: "Bill Morris articulates the feeling of ethnic minorities in the way that immigration and asylum has been handled by the Home Secretary and the Conservative Opposition. Balanced comments have been sacrificed in preference to political scoring of points. The evidence is clear. It is now emerging that minorities live in fear. The violence against minorities is increasing. Right-wing extremists are marching the streets again. We expect leadership from politicians but this is lacking."
Pat Younge, deputy commissioning editor for multi-cultural programmes at Channel 4 said: "I think on balance Bill Morris is right. The Government set up the Macpherson inquiry and promised to act on its findings, which is very positive.
"But the Government cannot hide from its role on the asylum seekers issue. A Labour Government taking away cash benefits and replacing them with vouchers ... not even the Tories would be brave enough to do that. I know Jack Straw and he is the most progressive Home Secretary we have had on race for 25 years. But in terms of the tone and the specifics on the bonds issue, the asylum seekers and trial by jury they have got it badly wrong."
Her views were echoed by MTV youth presenter June Sarpong. She said: "For the Government to even consider introducing a £10 000 deposit for visitors from the Indian sub-continent is quite unbelievable, I think the Government are making the asylum situation out to be worse than it is where they should be showing more compassion. Just put yourself in these people's shoes for a minute. Given any reasonable choice they wouldn't be leaving their countries and it is very easy for those of us who don't face such terrible choices to become complacent."