[Sinn Fein]

29th October 2001

Asylum reforms will undermine human rights

Sinn Fein Human Rights Spokesperson, Newry & Armagh MLA Pat McNamee has criticised the proposed Asylum reforms announced today by British Minster David Blunkett.

Mr McNamee said:

``The proposals announced by David Blunkett are draconian. They will in effect undermine international human rights. The reality is that they will also fail to tackle the difficulties experienced by people who are genuinely in need of asylum.

``Mr Blunket has done nothing to address the concerns of communities who have had to come to terms with large numbers of asylum seekers in their midst. These announcements will only serve to exasperate prejudice.

``Central to the Peace Process and the Good Friday Agreement is the vindication and protection of Human Rights of all. This must include the Human Rights of Asylum Seekers.

``Instead of the use of unnecessary detention, Asylum Seekers should have access to non-custodial alternatives and full access to free legal advice and welfare and community services while their cases are assessed.

``Racism does not grow by accident or in isolation - neither does sectarianism. We need to commit ourselves to a culture of Human Rights for all. Sinn Fein are not alone in wanting to create a society in Ireland based on tolerance, respect and understanding.

``To date the British government and Irish governments have adopted an antagonistic approach to this issue. This latest announcement will lend more to an atmosphere of intolerance and racism when what is required are measures to humanely address this issue. It is clearly the responsibility of government and all parties to give leadership on this issue.

``There is a huge richness to be gained from multi-culturism. With information, education and political leadership fear and misunderstanding can be replaced with an embracing of the growing diversity in Irish society.''

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