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Attacks on British asylum seekers

Attacks on British asylum seekers

UNHCR expressed its concern at the outbreak of attacks on asylum-seekers in the United Kingdom, but said such developments were predictable in a climate of vilification.
10 August 2001
West Timor: IDPs in Kupang, near GOR sports stadium.

GENEVA, Aug. 10 (UNHCR) - The U.N. Refugee Agency Friday expressed its grave concern about the outbreak of attacks on asylum-seekers in the United Kingdom, but said the development was predictable in the prevailing climate of vilification in that country.

A 22-year-old Turkish Kurd asylum-seeker, Firsat Yildiz, was murdered in the Scottish city of Glasgow Sunday. An Iranian on the same housing estate was stabbed Tuesday, and a third asylum-seeker was stabbed in the throat in the English city of Hull the same day.

"Three such attacks in three days is a very alarming development," a spokesman said in Geneva Friday. "But in UNHCR's view, they were sadly predictable given the climate of vilification of asylum seekers that has taken hold in the United Kingdom in recent years."

The spokesman added, "In some mass circulation newspapers, asylum seekers are continually branded a problem, statistics are being twisted and negative stories endlessly highlighted. This often-deliberate attempt to tarnish the name of an entire group has been so successful that the words 'asylum seeker' and 'refugee' have become terms of abuse in school playgrounds."

High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers wrote in one recent editorial: "Asylum-seekers make a perfect target for people who want to invoke the age-old prejudice against foreigners. Asylum-seekers can't answer back. UNHCR urges politicians and some sections of the media to deal responsibly with the issue."