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"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C

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Home Office backs down on Discrimination Against Tamils
Tamil Information Centre, Press Release, 11 June 2002

Home Office backs down on discrimination against Tamils In a last-ditch attempt to stop a legal challenge, the Government today announced that it will stop discriminating against Tamils in immigration cases. The Government had authorised immigration officials to detain and impose conditions on Tamils, solely because of their racial origin. The announcement comes on the eve of a High Court hearing of a legal challenge to the rule brought by the Tamil Information Centre.

The Tamil Information Centre, which is bringing the court case, welcomed the government decision:

We are pleased that the Government has stopped discriminating against Tamils in immigration cases. It was wrong of the Government to introduce this rule in the first place. People arriving in the UK should be treated as individuals, not detained because of their racial origins. This rule allowed immigration officials to discriminate against any Tamil, including British Tamils and other Tamils with a right to live here. We are glad the rule has gone.

The Government took too long to act. Home Office Ministers have been sitting on this issue for more than 9 months. This forced the Tamil Information Centre to bring a legal challenge to this rule. We believe, the Government has backed down now because it was afraid that the High Court would uphold our legal challenge. This change will benefit Tamils and other ethnic groups.

Sadly, the Government has decided to keep its rule for discriminating against people from certain countries. The Tamil Information Centre is therefore pressing ahead tomorrow with our challenge to this rule. We urge the Government to reconsider its position. Immigration decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis, without blanket discrimination for any reason.

Notes for editors 1. The Tamil Information Centre (TIC) is a non-political not for profit human rights organisation, based in East London. It is run by Tamils for Tamils. It has been open for almost all of the last 20 years. It provides a resource and library service to Tamils and those interested in Tamil affairs.

2. The Race Relations (Immigration And Asylum) (No. 2) Authorisation 2001 was made by Barbara Roche MP, the then Minister of State, on 2 April 2001. It was announced in Parliament on 1 May 2001. It authorised Home Office officials to discriminate against certain ethnic groups including Tamils. The authorised discrimination included detention and imposing conditions on the individuals stay in the UK, on the sole ground that the person concerned was a Tamil.

3. The Race Relations (Immigration And Asylum) (No. 1) Authorisation 2001 authorises Home Office officials to discriminate against nationalities where there is a trend or pattern of breach of immigration control. The Home Office has refused repeated requests to disclose which nationalities it discriminates against.

4. The TIC challenged the Home Office Authorisations in a letter of 10 September 2001 to Lord Rooker (then Minister of State). When he did not reply, the TIC brought a judicial review of the authorisations. The TIC is not eligible for any legal aid for this judicial review.

5. Tomorrow (Wednesday 12 June 2002) the High Court will hear the TICs claim for judicial review. The TIC is asking the High Court to quash the authorisation allowing discrimination against unidentified nationalities. The TIC will drop the rest of its claim because of the Government announcement, but will be asking the Court to order the Government to pay its legal costs.

6. The TIC is represented by David Burgess of Winstanley Burgess, solicitors, and by barristers Robin Allen QC and Simon Cox.

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