LETTER: Our debt to Africa

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Sir: Peter Popham's article "The desperate plight of a dispossessed people" (7 February) was a fine piece of reporting, appropriately given front page status and followed by a courageous leader railing against the "dangerous myth of fortress Europe".

I used to live in Madrid and was horrified by the regular news images of half-dead Africans washed up on the Spanish coast. In Britain these images are not seen often enough to prick the public consciousness. Once he arrives in Britain the immigrant's story is well documented, but, unless a tragedy of vast proportions occurs in the back of a lorry from Calais to Dover, the public is generally spared the details of his hellish journey into Europe.

Britain has plundered Africa's wealth, propped up dictators and kept its people in servitude for centuries. The Chancellor's African Aid plan is laudable, but, coming with Charles Clarke's proposals to tighten immigration controls, it is further proof that what is given with one hand is taken away with the other.

Britain has a duty to actively help resettle people from countries whose economies it has ruined. Unfortunately it is left to papers like The Independent to keep the pressure on and behave responsibly when the Government does not.