28 July 2009

BNP leader extends sick pledge to capsize refugee boats

When I came face to face with BNP leader Nick Griffin on his first day at the European Parliament in Strasbourg I thought he might find urgent business elsewhere in the building.

After all, this was a rare occasion when he didn't have burly minders at his side to intimidate interviewers who dare ask awkward questions. And he would have been only too well aware of the Mirror's anti-BNP Hope not Hate campaign in the run-up to the European elections. But, in fairness to Griffin, he was only too happy to air his views on, for example, global warming ("a man-made myth").

I gave him an opportunity to back down on his comment that Europe should sink boats transporting illegal immigrants from the coast of North Africa.

"Do you regret making that statement?" I asked.

True to form Griffin replied that he only had one regret: that he did not extend his murderous scheme to vessels transporting refugees to those in the Adriatic and Atlantic. It was exactly the kind of nakedly racist response that makes it impossible to take seriously the BNP's claims to being proper politicial contenders.

I would bet that Griffin would not have considered Save The Children's recent report into the condition of youngsters trying to get from Libya into Italy. Had he done so he would notice that most of the children on the barely seaworthy boats being turned back from Europe have fled war in countries like Somalia and Eritrea.

As Fosca Nomis, spokesperson for Save the Children, said: "Many of the children on the boats from Libya had been forced to travel thousands of miles, often alone, to escape conflict and poverty in countries such as Somalia, Eritrea and Nigeria. In ten months we received over 2,000 children entitled to receive protection in Italy. They were often exhausted, hungry, severely dehydrated and terrified after the journey. Many children have recounted harrowing stories, of rape and of having to see dead family members thrown out of the boat.

"Many of the child migrants had been locked up in adult detention centres before boarding the boats for Italy, and we are afraid they may be returned there when they arrive in Libya. Conditions are notoriously bad. Human rights organisations have persistently reported allegations of torture and ill-treatment at the centres in a country which has not signed the Geneva Refugee Convention."

This is the kind of inconvenient truth that gets in the way of Griffin's deliberately controversial - but totally hollow - soundbites.


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