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Concentrate refugees in camps, says Labour peer

Lord West apologies for language on Channel crossings

LABOUR peer Lord Alan West was forced to apologise today after backing the detention of asylum-seekers in “concentrated places” such as camps.

Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House programme this morning, the retired Royal Navy admiral said of refugees crossing the Channel in small boats: “We need to actually deal with them in a concentrated place, whether it’s a camp or whatever.”

The former security minister, who served in Gordon Brown’s Cabinet, was discussing government plans to deploy nets to prevent refugee boats from crossing the Channel.

Lord West said that this wouldn’t “solve the problem” because “until we resolve the way we deal with them in this country and get agreement from France and other European nations to take them back, then we’re stuck with them.”

Stand up to Racism co-convenor Weyman Bennett said that the language used by Lord West “aids the far right’s intimidation of refugees.” 

The comments were the latest in a stream of political attacks on asylum-seekers, prompted by an increase in people crossing the Channel in small boats.

In recent months ministers have threatened to deploy the navy to prevent crossings.

And leaks revealed that ministers considered opening offshore asylum-processing centres on remote islands or on disused ferries — plans widely condemned by human rights groups.

Campaigners say that such hostile rhetoric has driven recent attacks by the far right against refugee accommodation including army barracks in Kent and at the Penally camp in Wales.

Mr Bennett said that Lord West’s support for holding asylum-seekers in camps shows “how toxic some Establishment figures have got in their targeting of refugees.”

“All who stand in solidarity with refugees and asylum-seekers need to keep campaigning in the face of such hostility,” he added. 

Lord West later apologised for the language he’d used. 

“I am sorry for my choice of words and the confusion caused. I was trying to get across the point that working with other EU nations will help resolve this,” he said.

His party said: “The Labour Party is clear that all people should be treated with humanity, compassion and respect.”

It came as dozens of protests took place nationwide to demand an end to the Tories’ hostile-environment policies and to condemn escalating anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Protests led by migrant groups, healthcare organisations and trade unions took place in Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Hastings, Hull, London and Sheffield.

Vigils are to be held to mark the 10th anniversary on Monday of the death of Jimmy Mubenga, a 46-year-old Angolan man who died after being restrained by G4S guards on a Home Office deportation flight run by British Airways.

Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group chairwoman Loraine Masiya Mponela said: “We are remembering everyone that has died as a consequence of hostile-environment policies. I’d be here all day if I had to list all of them.”

Lesbians & Gays Support the Migrants staged a protest outside Twickenham Stadium calling on England Rugby to drop British Airways as a sponsor.

A socially distanced vigil for “lives destroyed by the hostile environment” will also be held this evening at 6.30pm outside the Home Office.

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