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Race 'segregation' caused riots

Race 'segregation' caused riots

Author:
Publication: BBC News
Date: December 11, 2001

Reports into the summer riots in Bradford, Oldham and Burnley have urged government action to bring together Britain's "shockingly" divided communities.

The main Cantle report, commissioned by the Home Office, said people in Britain were leading "parallel" and "polarised" lives where people from different backgrounds did not mix.

It called for a meaningful concept of citizenship which could include an oath of allegiance setting out "a clear primary loyalty to this nation".

Home Office minister John Denham, who chaired a cross-departmental group that examined the impact of the riots, said: "We have not made a commitment to a formal oath of allegiance, but we do want the debate to take place."

The report also urged an "open, honest" debate about multi-culturalism in Britain.

A review of the Oldham riots blamed deep-rooted segregation which authorities had failed to address for generations.

It warned: "Segregation, albeit self-segregation, is an unacceptable basis for a harmonious community and it will lead to more serious problems if it is not tackled."

No quick fix

A third report, on the Burnley riots, called for local and government action to tackle the deprivation and "disillusionment" of young people which has led to "violence and prejudice".

A previous report into Bradford's troubles by Lord Ouseley had also painted a picture of a fractured city with mistrust between different communities.

The Cantle report, which warned there would be no quick fixes, made 67 recommendations covering areas such as housing, political leadership, education, youth and leisure facilities and regeneration.

It specifically called for a change in the way regeneration schemes are managed, as they force groups to "compete against each other" and lead to resentment.

It warned of the dangers of the government's policy of encouraging single-faith schools, which might deepen the divisions.

'Diverse community'

Home Secretary David Blunkett, who was speaking about race relations in Birmingham on Tuesday, welcomed the reports and called for a debate on citizenship.

"Today's reports show that too many of our towns and cities lack any sense of civic identity or shared values.

"Young people, in particular, are alienated and disengaged from much of the society around them, including the leadership of their communities."

But Mr Blunkett defended the government's policy of encouraging more faith schools.

He said if some religions could have faith schools, it was unfair not to allow other communities their desire to follow suit.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's spokesman also welcomed the reports, saying they had "started a debate which we as a country need to have".

More research

He said it was important to "recognise and celebrate diversity at the same time as developing the bonds that any community needs."

In response to the Cantle Report, a separate study by Home Office minister John Denham set out steps taken, and ideas for steps to be taken, by the government to tackle the problems.

It said cross-governmental work on the myriad aspects of community cohesion, which had been established in the last few months, should continue.

It said it would press the local authorities concerned to publish their own plans for cohesion by April 2002.

And it suggested establishing a research programme to give a fuller understanding of segregation in the UK.

'Controversial debate'

Mr Denham said it was crucial to identify "shared values and common citizenship" to help bind Britain's diverse ethnic communities.

"These issues are intrinsically difficult and controversial but we must grapple with and debate them if we are to make progress," he said.

He added: "We have not made a commitment to a formal oath of allegiance, but we do want the debate to take place."

The summer's disturbances were some of the worst seen in the UK, with the Bradford violence alone causing damage estimated at £10m, and injuring 300 police officers.
 


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