Thursday, Oct 09, 2003
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By Hasan Suroor
The move, announced by the Shadow Home Secretary, Oliver Letwin, at the Tory Party conference in Blackpool has been denounced as a `crude' attempt to appease its right-wing hardliners clamouring for a crackdown on immigrants and asylum-seekers.
Human rights groups said the plan breached international law under which Britain was committed to giving safe haven to people fleeing persecution.
"The idea of exiling those already fleeing their countries is inhumane and ridiculous,'' said the Refugees Council.
Under Mr. Letwin's proposals, asylum-seekers would be allowed to set foot unless their claims were found genuine.
He claimed that a similar scheme of the Australian Government had led to an "immediate and vast reduction in asylum claims''.
Mr. Letwin's plans go far beyond the controversial move by his predecessor, Ann Widdecombe, to keep all asylum applicants in detention centres. She was accused of pandering to xenophobia. Mr. Letwin's announcement caught even his admirers by surprise because he is widely seen as the liberal face of the Tory Party, and his grandfather came to Britain as a refugee. It was described as a desperate attempt by the party to be seen to be `concerned' on what is expected to become a key issue at the next election.
The Government termed the idea "muddled and laughable''. "If he (Mr. Letwin) becomes Prime Minister he would have to live in the real world,'' a spokesman said.
Mr. Letwin's `initiative' came as leadership crisis in the Tory Party deepened with media reports hinting at a `plot' to topple Iain Duncan Smith whose policies have failed to enthuse either the rank and file or the voters.
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