The Sun has claimed the credit for persuading the Government to take a tougher stance on asylum seekers.
The tabloid has published a series of articles highlighting the issue of increasing asylum seeker numbers. And it also commissioned a Yougov opinion poll which found that 82 per cent of those questioned thought Government policy on asylum seekers too weak.
The coverage led Home Secretary David Blunkett to interrupt his holiday last week to call Sun political editor Trevor Kavanagh and say: “I am not in dispute with The Sun on this week’s coverage.”
He went on to detail how he thought asylum seeker numbers had become a problem and what he planned to do about it. Kavanagh told Press Gazette: “As a result of The Sun getting involved in the way it has, the Government itself has begun to start taking action. I think this is because of the sheer size of our readership and the way we have covered the issue.
“We believe that the Government is in trouble on this because it has reacted far too late.” Kavanagh said he believes his newspaper has deflected claims of racism by the way it has covered the issue. He said: “We have bent over backwards to avoid any claims of racism. We made the point that our readers welcome the contribution made by legal immigrants. “We spent the last day of our series of articles allowing legal immigrants to articulate their views.”
Figures published in the last week have showed asylum seeker numbers for the second quarter of 2003 at roughly half of the level of the same period last year.
Blunkett said: “These figures show that the tough measures the Government has put in place to prevent illegal immigration and tackle abuse of the asylum system are working.”
By Dominic Ponsford