ANOTHER VIEW : How to ease racial tension

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The Independent Online
The world recently marked the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Allies. To anyone asking why negotiated peace with Hitler would have been unthinkable, Auschwitz gives the answer.

Given Britain's proud record of combating fascism, racism and intolerance, it can only be a matter of great concern that racial tensions should be rising here.

In the East End and in some suburbs of London, as well as in inner city areas in the Midlands and the North, people of all ethnic origins walk in fear even of their lives. This applies to blacks, Asians and whites, and I have had many letters from people of every community telling of their experiences and fears.

Herman Ouseley, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, says that all the evidence on the ground from the network of agencies who support victims suggests the problem is getting worse. The anti-racist alliance has found the same thing, and the Board of Deputies of British Jews speaks of "a general rise of racism and racist violence in Britain".

Why? What has gone wrong? Have we changed as a people? Have we become less tolerant? I do not believe so. What has changed - and changed dramatically - is the size of the ethnic minority population.

When I first tackled this issue in 1967, the ethnic minority community numbered barely a million. Today, even by official figures, it has grown to 3 million. The growth rate is now 1 million per decade and risks putting enormous pressure on areas of ethnic concentration.

Senior officials in the Immigration Service, including Peter Tompkins, its former head, estimate that, while official figures show 50,000 immigrants entering the country each year, the true figure is between 100,000 and 150,000.

As the National Audit Office's new report shows, Britain's immigration control system is hopelessly antiquated and incompetent. It is nothing short of a scandal that incomers at our ports are still listed manually, with the installation of a new computer system running three years behind schedule.

The Immigration Service, at its own estimate, catches no more than 5 to 10 per cent of illegal entrants. Over the past five years, while 150,000 have arrived in this country, barely 5,000 have departed. Britain's immigration policy is claimed by ministers to be "firm and fair". It is patently neither, with 100 to 200 per cent more entering illegally than the official statistics admit. It certainly cannot be described as "firm". Nor can a policy that allows so many illegal entrants and bogus asylum-seekers to remain, while others with better claims are denied entry, be described as "fair". The time has come for the Government to come clean on this issue and to publish its own estimates of those who are entering and remaining illegally and, in the interests of racial harmony, to crack down firmly on all such illegal immigration.

The writer is Conservative MP for Davyhulme.