The UNHCR representative in the UK, Anne Dawson-Shepherd wrote to the party leaders and asked them to:
'show political leadership and social responsibility by working towards reversing the atmosphere of intolerance that has been fostered towards refugees and asylum seekers.
'Refugees are extremely vulnerable, having experienced violence in their homelands, and arrive in the UK without family or other support networks. They are not a threat, but are threatened, and thus deserve Britain's support and understanding.'
She also criticised the Tories for claiming that the UNHCR has set up pilot overseas processing centres in Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.
Keith Best is another former Tory MP and the current director of the Immigration Advisory Service. He's weighed into the discussion as well
'It is not correct that overseas processing centres have been established. Certainly this would not happen in countries with poor human rights records, which are also non-signatories of the 1951 Refugee Convention.'
'Research shows that every time something hardline is said in the press by politicians about immigration, there is a direct link to racist attacks. That is the danger. I wouldn't advocate this whole thing being taboo. My concern is that the debate is conducted at such a profoundly ignorant level.'Howard is sending out the wrong messages for the most cynical of reasons. Whenever he says immigration or asylum-seekers, the audience doesn't think of Australians or Americans, but hordes of Asians or Africans - anyone with a dark skin. He demonises them, promising to test them all for various contagious diseases and tying them to the terrorist threat. Howard is a throwback to a nastier, dirtier form of Toryism that we all hoped had been abandoned to the far right, but the Labour Party must avoid trying to out-tough the Tories. Let them run to the right and let us stand our ground and give a voice to the voiceless minority.