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Anti-racist campaigners condemn 'airbrush racism'

The National Assembly Against Racism (NAAR) has condemned a Tory candidate's manipulation of images from an anti-deportation protest to create a message of intolerance. Turning the message 'let them stay' into one against immigration and 'chaos' is symbolic of the dangerous way in which some politicians are trying to stir up fear and intolerance for electoral gain.

NAAR is calling for a radical reappraisal of election campaigning, asking politicians to back away from the dangerous xenophobic tone that marks much debate, and is also calling for MPs across the spectrum to demonstrate respect for all communities. NAAR - a broad coalition of Black and Jewish organisations, trade unions, faith groups and others -  is calling for party politicians to change their tone, and to understand that anti-immigration, anti-asylum and anti-traveller rhetoric has a major impact on the rise of racism and racist violence.

NAAR endorses statements by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and the Commission for Racial Equality. The UNHCR representative in Britain has pointed to the drop in asylum claims - not the rise being claimed by some - and has called for candidates to 'show responsibility by working towards reversing the atmosphere of intolerance that has been fostered towards refugees and asylum seekers'. The CRE has asked politicians to realize the effect their words are having in contributing to a climate of hostility.

Lee Jasper, Secretary of NAAR said: "The exposure of Tory campaigning, which manipulates an image of Tories on a pro-asylum rights rally, turning it into an image against asylum seekers illustrates one thing - that asylum seekers are the first casualty when parties sink into the gutter to gain votes. Air-brushing a black asylum seeker family out of the image, to be replaced with draconian calls on immigration, is nothing short of racism and must be condemned by Michael Howard.

Unfortunately this signifies the latest low move in a Conservative election campaign, whose policies will effectively "airbrush" asylum seekers out of society by pulling out of the Geneva Convention and proposing quotas on asylum seekers.

The climate created by hostilities on immigration is providing fertile ground for a rise in racism and racist attacks. This can only aid the growth of the fascist BNP, which welcomed the Tory campaign on asylum quotas, stating it creates a 'win-win situation' for them. The BNP are standing around 112 candidates in the general election to spread their message in preparation for local elections in 2006. To deny them this goal, every effort needs to be made to isolate their message of hate.

The Tories' frenzied rhetoric on asylum seekers, Roma people and travellers fuels a climate which allows the BNP to prosper. Instead of encouraging racism and hostility towards marginalised and vulnerable communities, mainstream politicians must dispel the myths and lies about race and minority communities: playing with fear is always dangerous, but is particularly so when the BNP have made significant advances and aim for a national breakthrough.

Political parties should listen to the growing and broad coalition of forces as varied as UNHCR, the CRE and churches who warn against the tone of the election campaign and its impact on society at large. Failing to hear this warning will lay the ground for further BNP advance in the elections."


April 2005


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