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Is the city of reconciliation now a centre of oppression and bigotry?

YOU should be ashamed of your front page attack on asylum seekers on Thursday.

You seek to portray them as lawbreaking vagrants and to whip up feeling against them.

To call asylum seekers illegal is just cheap name calling. Bullying.

They are illegal because there is no other way for them to get into this country.

They are begging because there is no adequate support for them. There is no visa for asylum seekers.

If they approach a British Embassy abroad for asylum, they will not get a visa. Or they have to pretend to be visitors.

Our government has made their lot ever more miserable, imprisoning some, denying others even the tiniest amount of cash, even though it is the obligation of the government to receive them and provide for them under the 1950 Convention on Human Rights.

They have their children with them because they are calling to our humanity.

Are we going to fail this simple test yet again?

What lessons have we learned from the last century?

Every time there is a disaster, our leaders and newspapers rattle on and on about

"learning the lessons" and making sure it never happens again'.

What have we learned from Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussein, Pol Pot, Radovan Karadic, Slobadan Milsovic, and Augusto Pinochet?

Have we learned that people are lying when they tell us that their own governments are murdering, torturing, and raping their own people?

Have we learned that asylum seekers are cheats and frauds?

Or have we learned to harden our hearts and to deny our obligations as human beings and as signatories to the UN Charter and the International Convention on Human Rights which oblige us to offer refuge to those seeking protection from murderous governments?

Have we learned to to be smug in our contentment and proud of our great virtue: That we just happened to be born into a country where people can be safe in their own homes?

Coventry has a long record of helping the oppressed. Our Cathedral is a symbol of reconciliation, and a reminder of the sufferings of innocent people caught up in the bombing of Coventry and Dresden. Are we now to become a centre of bigotry and intolerance?

Merle Gering,

Bennetts Road,


Disturbed by stories feeding prejudice and xenophobia

I AM deeply disappointed by the increasing xenophobia and antipathy the refugee problem exhibited in the media (and not discouraged by the government) during the past two years.

One of the latest manifestations is towards immigrants classified either by the government or by the media as "asylum seekers".

Recent reports in your paper, Paul Dale's feature (February 29) "Why are asylum seekers allowed to beg on our streets?", do nothing to mitigate this unpleasant and dangerous attitude.

Moreover, you say in your leader on Page 8 that "begging is objectionable, unnecessary and ought not to be tolerated in any city."

Nobody sits in a cold street asking for money without good reason; we are, moreover, constantly being asked to give money - whether through Oxfam, PDSA, Cancer Research, Action Aid, British Legion or the Lottery - to benefit others, and we give or decline as we wish without demure, so what is the problem?

I suspect the answer lies in the the following extract from your leader - "The fact remains, however, that Coventry is being required to find accommodation for 500 refugees. Genuine asylum seekers are given a roof over their heads and money to buy meals (pounds 25 a week according to your report) - It IS basic, but there are thousands of low-income families living in this city who are expected to survive on not much more. There are no frills to this existence. But begging on the streets cannot be the answer."

This implies that "foreigners" should not complain about being "given" something less than that on which locals are expected to survive. This is a message with a value less than I expect from a newspaper with the reputation which the Evening Telegraph enjoys, and serves only to feed the prejudice growing within society in the UK.

Chris Poole,

Runcorn Walk,


. . . I READ with concern the letters in Tuesday's (Evening Telegraph February 22) regarding refugees begging in Coventry.

Most refugees are not given any financial help from either central or local government and there is no official body that is in charge.

They are not entitled to any state benefits and it is illegal for companies to employ them without permission from the Home Office. They are destitute and no one seems willing to take any responsibility.

I hardly think this can be described as our country's caring nature and the refugees are in no position to abuse anyone. Is it so awful to have someone come up to you and ask you for some change? You are free to say no and there is no harm done to anyone.

How you would feel if you were in a strange country where you couldn't speak the language and had no money? What would you like to receive?

These people are not criminals. They are human beings and should be given some dignity and help.

Trevor Phinnemore, Coventry Peace House, Stoney Stanton Road, Foleshill.

. . . I WAS horrified today to see a woman sitting outside Burtons near Broadgate with two young children, holding her hand out begging.

She appeared to be one of the Kosovan refugees that we Coventrians have been good enough to support and give shelter to.

What horrified me was that she had a black eye, her children (aged approximately 6 and 18 months) were inappropriately dressed for the cold, and were sitting on the floor.

I telephoned the emergency social service unit and informed them, and they assured me that it would be investigated.

My sympathy evaporated an hour later when I saw a young man of the same origins, approach the woman, take her money and return to the large group of young men who have in recent months become something of a feature under the canopy outside the Cathedral Lanes shopping complex.

This abuse of our all too free support network in this country is fast making us the laughing stock of Europe. These scroungers are taking the resources desperately needed for genuine refugees, and in the process turning the population of this country against all people making claims against our disintegrating social security fund.

Carolyn McKay, Kenpas Highway, Green Lane.

. . . I RECENTLY wrote in about begging in the Museum Cafe in Coventry. I wish to make two points.

The begging problem does not include those homeless people who sit on pavements and who are always polite whether you give to them or not.

Since writing I have experienced much more harassment, when I visited McDonalds in the Burges.

Within hr I had been harassed four times by what appeared to be a refugee family. This was despite them being evicted three times from the store by staff.

Readers letters seem to indicate this organised begging has already reached Bell Green, Tile Hill, Earlsdon, Coundon, parts of the city. The police should publish how their investigation is proceeding.

I hope the multi-agency approach will not mean a softly softly approach to these people.

They are harassing shoppers and old people. They know exactly what they are doing. They should be made an example of.

Name and address supplied.

Straight to the POINT

IT WOULD appear that the surge of begging from refugees in Coventry coincided with Cllr Margaret Lancaster saying she didn't know how they would survive on such meagre benefits from the state.

I suggest she stands outside Sainsburys any weekday and sees refugees struggling with bags and bags of food and drink from the store courtesy of vouchers paid for by tax payers.

I give warning that if this council do as they did in Kent and charge each council tax payer pounds 3 each to pay the refugee costs then many life time Labour voters will turn their heads on these councillors once and for all.

J McDonald, Beake Avenue, Whitmore Park.

COVENTRY people's fairness is growing thin.

Kosovans over here are young active people, there are very few are older people.

Why aren't they going back? The troubles are over. Why aren't they helping in their own country instead they are begging on our streets and taking money from our resources that should be going to our own people.

We came home after the war. Why can't they go back to their country instead of sitting around Broadgate?

M Prewett, John O'Gaunt Road, Cheylesmore.

CAN someone please explain to me why the government feel it necessary to blame the asylum seekers for the people of Kent to have their council tax raised by an extra pounds 3 a month, when in fact, they were putting it up anyway?

Every other city has put up their council tax, and they are not blaming it on the asylum seekers, so why are they adding fuel to the fire!

Name and address supplied

Beggars are hiring out sick children

SOME of your correspondents appear to be rather naive regarding the beggars plaguing the city centre and suburbs of Coventry.

These groups are professional beggars. They hire out sick children from gang to gang. The disabled, elderly are hired out in a similar manner for use as a heart-jerking ploy.

Incidentally, the staff of the city centre company do have powers of arrest with regard to begging.

Under a well established statute, begging is a crime in England and Wales. The city centre staff do have powers of arrest in such a case. They can also bring the matter to court by the method of laying information before the magistrates.

Zoe Keogh, Dunhill Avenue, Tile Hill North.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Mar 4, 2000
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