The news that 58 refugees died trying to enter this country has been greeted with sadness and anger by support groups. The bodies of the Chinese immigrants were found yesterday in the back of a refrigerated container truck arriving by ferry at Dover. While Home Secretary Jack Straw, MP Anne Widdecombe and others are laying all the blame for the deaths on unscrupulous smugglers, those working with refugees and asylum seekers point out that our current inflexible immigration laws have a great part to play in the tragedy. Fr Wilfrid McGreal, Prior of Aylesford in Kent, said: "Our community has been involved with people in this predicament for many years. This tragedy shows these how desperate these people are and how vulnerable. We must set up transparent and just procedures for dealing with people who want to apply to come here. The way we deal with this issue over the next few years will be a test of our civilisation." He said: "We've never had a very good record of dealing with people coming here from abroad. We forget that each year more people emigrate from here than arrive. "This tragic episode should stop Jack Straw from drawing up draconian measures to keep refugees out. We are a society based on Christian values. We shouldn't allow the politics of fear stirred up by the tabloid press to influence the way we treat people." Richard Martin, a volunteer refugee hostel worker at Oakland Refugee Services started by local churches in Honor Oak, Kent, said: "You can't come here with a passport. You can't come here without one. These people are desperate. This tragedy is a consequence of our inflexible laws. It could easily happen again." Alison Jones, a member of the inter-church North London Refugee Support Network, said: "This was horrifying. While we were enjoying our weekend these people were suffering the most appalling deaths. We will never know their individual stories. Were they married? Did they have children?" Simon Hughes, MP for Southwark and Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Home Affairs said: "Unless people have a lawful way of putting their case for asking for asylum they will be forced to try to come here in whatever way they can. We've pushed them into this position. Our regulations are responsible for this tragedy."
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