Catholic voters urged to quiz candidates on race issues

 In the run-up to the General Election, Catholics in the UK are being urged to reflect on the subject of race and refugees. A leaflet prepared by the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales outlines questions to put to candidates. A separate booklet by Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue calls for a reform of the asylum system and warns against xenophobic language during the election campaign. In the leaflet entitled: 'Racial Justice, Refugees and the General Election', the committee for community relations and the office for refugee policy of the Bishops' Conference outline seven issues for Catholics to raise with election candidates, including: -violence against minorities -discrimination in education, housing and employment -institutional racism -the voucher system for asylum seekers. The bishops have spoken out on many occasions on the plight of asylum seekers and refugees, and candidates are asked to avoid 'pandering to the racist emotions of a small proportion of the electorate'. The leaflet also affirms the bishops' support for the Macpherson Report and asks the Catholic community to 'reflect seriously' on the challenges it presents. The new leaflet highlights the poverty, prejudice and discrimination faced by many members of ethnic minority communities, which make up 5.5% of the total population. The vast majority of people of Asian, African and Caribbean descent living in Britain are British citizens, or are permanently settled here. Nearly half were born here. However, more than a third remain in the poorest fifth of the overall population, with more than 60% living in the poorest neighbourhoods. In his booklet entitled 'Any Room at the Inn?', Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue, Chairman of the Office for Refugee Policy, argues that the asylum system is inefficient, inflexible and inadequate. He urges more support and better accommodation for asylum seekers, as well as a commitment to tackle root causes fairly at an international level. - 'Racial Justice, Refugees and the General Election' can be found at: in the Documents section. - 'Any Room at the Inn?' is at: - Both documents are also available from the Bishops' Conference, 39 Eccleston Square, London SW1V 1BX. - The bishops' general pre-election statement, 'Vote for the Common Good, was launched on 22 March 2001, and can be accessed at: source: CMO

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