- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 15, 2002

LONDON The British government yesterday said it will build at least three new, large centers for asylum seekers and said there may be more to come.
Critics of the plan immediately dubbed it "a recipe for racial tension" and warned that the new centers could become "ghetto camps."
The decision comes on the eve of a new opinion poll showing a growing resentment among Britons toward a rising tide of immigrants.
Home Office Minister of State Jeff Rooker said the three asylum centers would be built on Ministry of Defense property in England's green countryside of Worcestershire, Oxfordshire and Nottinghamshire and he indicated they might not be the last.
"We want to make sure it works," Mr. Rooker said, "and we could look at up to 12 to 15 centers if the pilot works." Each of the initial three centers will house as many as 750 asylum seekers while their applications to remain in Britain as legal residents are processed.
Mr. Rooker defended the plan, the brainchild of Home Secretary David Blunkett, and rejected criticism that the government was "dumping people on the countryside with no facilities."
But one refugee group, the Immigration Advisory Service, reacted with fury. Its director, Keith Best, said that "what the home secretary has done is create a recipe for racial tension, which seems to me extraordinary."
Mr. Best warned that the asylum centers could become "ghetto camps" where refugees were excluded from society. "Everybody is against this idea," he added, "not against the concept of reception centers or accommodation centers, but against the size and location."
In Worcestershire, more than 3,000 villagers quickly signed a petition protesting the building of a refugee camp in their neighborhood. In Oxfordshire, one irate resident said, "All this will do is result in more crime and thievery, and beggars on the streets."
Rightist parties and leaders with strong anti-immigration messages have been growing in popularity in several European countries.


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