No Belfast model in Oldham, says Blunkett

LONDON, JUNE 16. The Home Secretary, Mr. David Blunkett has opposed racial segregation in Oldham criticising attempts to fence off Asian quarters from white areas.

``There will be no `no-go' areas,'' he said reacting sharply to the idea of fencing off Asian quarters.

In one neighbourhood, a metal fence has already been erected after the recent riots, ostensibly to ``protect'' Asians from outside racist elements and the media here has focussed on it to underline the far-right British National Party (BNP)'s idea of physically separating Asian and white areas.

The BNP leader, Mr. Nick Griffin has openly favoured the Belfast model of ringing Catholic and Protestant quarters.

Mr. Blunkett accused the BNP and the neo-Nazi group, Combat 18, of causing ``havoc'' in Oldham which was rocked by racial violence recently.

``It is a very dangerous situation where there are genuine problems and people have grievances and others come in from outside to stir them up,'' he said denouncing the idea of constructing the so-called ``peace walls'' to keep the communities apart.

``If there's a particular problem up an alley...they have been from time to time blocked off, but the idea of ringing a neighbourhood would be totally unacceptable,'' he declared a day after a meeting a delegation of M.P.s, councillors and police officers from Oldham.

Mr. Blunkett attacked attempts to politicise the absence of any Asian representative on the delegation saying it was more important to make real progress than engage in ``gesture-ism''.

He explained that the Deputy Mayor, Mr. Riaz Ahmed was not included in order to ensure that the delegation was politically balanced, but he was invited - at Mr. Blunkett's request - to attend as an observer. However, he decided to stay away, fearing problems at the local level, the BBC said. Mr. Ahmed, whose house was petrol-bombed recently, had said on Thursday that he was strongly advised by some ``very senior'' people not to join the delegation.

The non-inclusion of any Asian representative was reported to have caused resentment in the community.

Mr. Blunkett, who has ordered a review of race relations in Oldham, said the idea was to engage with local communities and rebuild confidence.

He clarified that there would be no direct Home Office intervention but it would support local initiatives to find solutions to the problems of Oldham.