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John Spellar challenged to clarify position on Asylum Seekers

17 February, 2004

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Human Rights and Equality, South Down MLA Caitríona Ruane has challenged NIO Minister John Spellar to clarify his position on Asylum Seekers after it emerged that he has shunned Asylum Seekers by withdrawing his constituency services from Asylum Seekers at his West Midlands constituency of Warley last year.

Ms Ruane said:

"It has emerged that John Spellar withdrew his constituency services from Asylum Seekers at his West Midlands constituency of Warley on the grounds that he was only prepared to see anyone who was 'on the electoral register' and that he regarded as 'proper constituents' who 'deserve any help' he could offer them. Such comments send out a very dangerous and worrying signal.

"Given the increase in racially motivated crime in the Six Counties it is vital that John Spellar publicly clarify his position on Asylum Seekers. Any failure to do so would only re-enforce the perception that within the NIO we have a Minister who is responsible for Human Rights who has scant understanding of the issues involved the vindication and promotion of the rights of all or in combating racism.

"Sinn Féin have called for the introduction of race hate legislation to be extended so that it covers incitement to hatred. In such circumstance anyone who promotes the idea that Asylum Seekers are not entitled to the same rights and protections as everyone else or are somehow not proper constituents and thus not deserving would be treading a very fine line.

"John Spellar has already lost the confidence of many nationalists over his role in supporting the killers of Peter McBride remaining in the British Army and now these latest revelations will only undermine any confidence in his ability to tackle major human rights issues such as the disgraceful detention of Asylum Seekers in Maghaberry or the major difficulties in a Human Rights Commission that is severely damaged and in urgent need to repair.

"In the context of over 200,000 people being wiped of the Electoral register his stance on recognising only people on the electoral register as 'proper constituents' also sends out a very very damaging signal. The British government are engaged in a massive act of electoral fraud and in John Spellar we have an NIO Minister who appears to regard people denied their democratic rights as not deserving." ENDS

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