Racism in Europe: Britain: Law helps contain violence

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The Independent Online
IN A Birmingham hospital, Clive Forbes lies seriously injured - grim testimony to Britain's rising tide of racial violence. Screaming racial abuse, a gang of 10 white men had set upon him, cracking his head with an iron bar and kicking him senseless. He had been walking home with his girlfriend, who was eight-months pregnant.

Mr Forbes, 35, is the latest addition to statistics which suggest that Britain is not immune to the ethnic discord sweeping Europe. In the past year nine people have been killed in racially motivated attacks. In the last five years the number of reported incidents of racial violence has nearly doubled to 7,793. The real figure is estimated to be about 70,000.

Britain has so far escaped the arson and multiple murder of Germany. There are several reasons: tough anti-immigration laws; Britain's Commonwealth immigrants are treated as permanent residents, not migrant workers or guest workers as in Germany; anti-discrimination laws; and the first-past-the-post election system prevents minority, extremist party representation.

But politicians of all stripes are worried about growing racist politics and neo-Nazi groups. Following the killing of the schoolboy Stephen Lawrence by white youths near the headquarters of the British National Party - a splinter group of the National Front - the Home Affairs Select Committee are examining racial attacks and harassment.

British neo-fascists have established bases, publishing houses and recruiters who target the disaffected young and poor in inner cities with large ethnic minorities. As membership of the groups increases, so does racial violence. Evidence suggests that Britain's fascists are orchestrating violence in Europe. Anti-Nazi groups have logged the movements of the members of the Odal Ring - a vicious offshoot of the BNP - meeting Nazis and former SS members in Belgium and Germany.

British skinheads and their so- called 'Blood and Honour' magazines and rock bands, like Skrewdriver, have created a following throughout Europe, cashing in on East Europe's rising nationalism. One sinister group is Combat 18 - the 18 represents the first and eighth letters of the alphabet, AH for Adolf Hitler. It was set up with the help of Harold Covington, a prominent American neo-Nazi whose supporters have been involved in killings in the United States.

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