LETTER:EU will soon have a uniform approach to asylum-seekers

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The Independent Online
From Mr Steve Harris

Sir: Andrew Marr ("Let's leave race out of immigration policy", 26 October) points out the hypocrisies and contradictions of British immigration policy. However, the press has made a contribution to the problem by its failure to inform the public of the insidious racism that our government has introduced to immigration policy for electoral advantage over at least a decade.

Just before the 1987 general election, carriers liability legislation was introduced. Airlines and ferry companies transporting people to Britain were to be held responsible for making sure all their customers' documents were in order so as to permit entry to the country. A fine of pounds 1,000 a head would be served on the carrier on each occasion an irregularity was found. The result was an immigration debate in the run-up to a general election. During that debate, carriers were told privately by Home Office officials that if no one created too much fuss the issue would disappear after the election. It did. Fines were levied, no one paid them and no one seriously tried to collect them.

Just before the 1992 election an Asylum Bill was introduced, the carriers liability fines were doubled and attempts to collect them began in earnest. The result, a full-scale immigration debate once again. Strangely, just before a general election.

Now there is about a year to go to the next general election and an Asylum Bill emerges.

The press and opposition politicians alike have given credibility to this racist manipulation by treating the legislation as part of a valid process and debating technical details while turning a blind eye to the real motives.

Yours sincerely,

Steve Harris

New Malden, Kent

26 October