Police officers support church view on asylum seekers
Asylum-seekers are not the "modern pariahs" they are made out to be, senior police officers said yesterday, echoing a point made by church groups.
Contrary to the public image, officers found them generally to be "law-abiding" and "extremely positive" ? and they were more likely to be the victims of crime than the perpetrators.
Moderator-elect of the Chuches Commission for Racial Justice, the Revd Myra Blyth, said last week that "time and again stories are told of how the dignity and humanity of asylum seekers is continually denied by targeting them as scape-goats."
"As one asylum seeker puts it, 'it is the shadow of being considered different that is most difficult to bear'. Being different was Jesus' only crime and for that he paid a high price."
The new statement by Chief Superintendent Kevin Morris, the president of the Police Superintendents' Association of England and Wales, will be welcomed by Christians ahead of Racial Justice Sunday, which will be celebrated this weekend.
Morris said: "There are people coming in who want to work and want to be proud to be British and we feel they are being used as a whipping post and that's unfair."
"In America their whole society is based on immigration. They get problems but it does not stop them creating the richest country in the world."
"Whatever population there is in the world there will be a criminal element and sometimes they are problematic."
"But just because one asylum-seeker was a criminal, it did not make them all so, Mr Morris said."
The association's annual conference in Newport, Wales, is holding a workshop on "policing changing populations".
The officer leading the event, Chief Superintendent Bruce Gilbert, of West Midlands police, said there was a great deal of under-reporting of crime against asylum-seekers.
"What we are setting out to do is give our colleagues a better picture of the problem," he added.
Meanwhile, asylum-seekers would be sent to assessment centres on scarcely-populated islands under plans being considered by the Tories to curb refugee numbers.
Under the proposals published yesterday, claimants would also be put on "probation" for five years before being finally granted full asylum status. As well as application centres within the UK, asylum claims could be submitted at British embassies overseas and even specially built units in "safe" neighbouring countries.
The plan, published by a Conservative Party commission on home affairs, was welcomed by Oliver Letwin, the shadow Home Secretary. "It gives us much food for thought as we move forward to further development of our policy on asylum," Mr Letwin said.
The proposals are not yet official party policy, but have a good chance of being added to the current Tory plan to scrap the asylum system and replace it with a fixed quota of 20,000 places a year.
The commission, chaired by Timothy Kirkhope, a former Tory Home Office minister and now an MEP, did not suggest where the new offshore application centres would be located. However, they are expected to be mainly in Scotland.
The report states that the centres would "provide a clean, safe habitable environment but offer no prospects for economic advancement. There would be a low population density in the surrounding area and Home Office officials would be based onsite."