EU referendum: Nigel Farage accused of 'age-old racism' over linking immigration to sexual assault

Sayeda Warsi, Shami Chakrabarti and Doreen Lawrence have called for the Ukip leader to apologise

Caroline Mortimer
Tuesday 07 June 2016 09:08 BST
Nigel Farage has accused of trying to 'convert fear into votes whatever the cost'
Nigel Farage has accused of trying to 'convert fear into votes whatever the cost' (Getty Images)

Female politicians and campaigners from across the political divide have joined forces to attack Ukip leader Nigel Farage’s “age-old racist” claim that migrants put British women at risk of sexual assaults.

Conservative peer and former foreign office minister Baroness Sayeda Warsi, Shami Chakrabarti, the chair of the Labour antisemitism inquiry and former director of Liberty and Baroness Doreen Lawrence, a Labour peer and anti-racism campaigner all signed a letter to the Guardian calling for Mr Farage to apologise for his comments.

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Farage - who is campaigning for Brexit with the unofficial, immigration focused Leave.EU campaign - said the “nuclear bomb” of the referendum campaign was the mass sex attacks which happened in Cologne on New Year’s Eve.

In January, reports emerged that over 1,000 women had been sexually assaulted and robbed during the German city’s New Year’s celebrations.

As the details began to emerge it was discovered that the majority of the perpetrators were of North African or Middle Eastern descent - though only three had recently arrived as refugees from Iraq and Syria contrary to earlier reports.

Asked whether he believed such attacks could happen in the EU, Mr Farage said: "It depends if they get EU passports. It depends if we vote for Brexit or not. It is an issue."

In the letter, the women said Mr Farage had taken his campaign to “a new low” and said the comments were a “cheap political tactic designed to cause maximum harm and convert fear into votes at whatever the cost”.

They said: “We are on both sides of the referendum debate and come together because at the weekend, Mr Farage went too far.

"Veiled threats of sexual assault by a new immigrant community stray too close for comfort to the race hate laws, and certainly cross the line of civilised discourse and rational debate.

"This makes even some pro-Brexit advocates feel profoundly uncomfortable.

"In Tuesday evening’s debate, Nigel Farage should apologise for the fear and offence caused, retract his comments and promise to conduct future debates with the seriousness and gravity that they and the British public deserve."

Mr Farage and David Cameron are scheduled to take it in turns to make their pitch to the nation followed by answering the live studio audiences questions on Tuesday for a debate broadcasted by ITV.

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