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Justice and peace groups fear political attitudes to asylum seekers

 Politicians are using racially inflammatory language in the immigration debate - the The National Justice and Peace Network said this week. The network, which speaks for Catholic Justice and Peace groups in England and Wales, said they had major concerns about statements issued by the Conservative and Labour Parties which could have potentially harmful impact on those people seeking asylum. They said: "Britain is not a soft touch on immigration. Figures from United Nations High Commission for Refugees show that the UK ranks ninth in Europe in terms of asylum applications per 1,000 people. Belgium, Ireland and Norway are just some of the European countries that offer more generous support to their asylum seekers than the UK." The Network urges the leaders of the two main political parties to honour an immigration pledge made a year ago. The pledge focuses on the use of responsible and ethical language in debates about asylum issues. The Network calls for a reasoned and moderate approach to the ongoing debate. In areas of south east England, the local election literature is spreading dangerous misinformation about the costs of asylum seekers in the area. Serious questions need to be asked of political parties who play the 'short-term race card' to gain political expediency in the run up to local elections. The Network deplores this appalling tactic and echoes the comments made by Bill Morris of the Transport and General Workers' Union that these leaders are fuelling the fires of resentment and racism. A year ago, after the Macpherson report into the Lawrence Inquiry, there was wide-scale condemnation of institutional racism and a commitment to rid public services of this evil. The Network questions: Where is that commitment now? Jim Marshall, chair of the Network said: "Britain has a rich and healthy tradition of accepting people who are fleeing persecution from their homeland. This tradition should not now be governed by colour or creed by but the individual merits of each case. Most asylum seekers bring with them a wealth of skills and talents and should be welcomed. This is not an issue about numbers but an issue of human rights."