When racism is not simply a black and white issue

Initiative to combat problem derided
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The Independent Online
Ethnic rights groups yesterday accused the Government of paying lip service to anti-racism as the Home Office announced a series of events to tie in with the launch of the European Year Against Racism.

The government initiative was criticised by Sukhvinder Stubbs, director of the Runnymede Trust, an independent race-relations think-tank. She said: "It's been 20 years since the Race Relations Act and frankly it's time for more than a talking shop. We need local authorities and others to help change the attitudes of young people. There are still parts of Britain where virtual apartheid exists, such as Somers Town, Greenwich, and Eltham, [all in London] which are no go areas for black people. We need a programme to change the attitudes of young people, legislation to enforce it and a party leadership that says no to racism."

Speaking yesterday at the launch of the initiative, John Major said a "great deal of progress" combating racism had been made in the last 40 years - but more needed to be done. "There must be no position, no job, no opportunity, no right from which people are excluded by reason of their creed, their colour or their background. That is what we need to work towards," he said.

An alliance of anti-racist organisations said, however, that the Tories had introduced a string of measures that had seriously harmed ethnic minorities in Britain during the past decade. Lee Jasper, of the National Assembly Against Racism, said: "The Government has an abysmal record ... Over the past 15 years, there has been a series of policies on issues such as education, law and order, and the police, which have lead to a deterioration of race relations."

Mark Wadsworth, of the Anti Racist Alliance, added: "We need proper initiatives that address the practical problems faced by victims. The European Year is tokenism."Timothy Kirkhope insisted at the London launch of the year of events, that include a film festival, gala and exhibition, that racism of any form would not be tolerated. He said he hoped Britain would lead the way in the fight against xenophobia, anti-Semitism and racial discrimination.

He added that the Government was monitoring racist groups' use of the Internet to contact each other and may introduce legislation in an attempt to prevent it.

The Daily Mail has rejected calls to pay the legal costs of the five men they accused of murdering Stephen Lawrence, the black teenager.

The newspaper was criticised for accusing the unconvicted men and printing their photographs in the knowledge that they could not afford to fund a libel trial.

Lawyers and members of the public have suggested that the Mail provide the funds to allow the men to test their innocence. But Peter Wright, deputy editor of the newspaper said yesterday: "We have no plans to fund any libel action by the five at the moment, but this is a developing story and we and our lawyers will continue to watch it and to consider any suggestions that are put to us."