By Sophie Dishman & Michael Pearson
An ex Sunderland Tory member has responded to an anti-immigration petition which has been signed by more than 10,000 of people from Tyne and Wear.
The petition, which calls to “stop all immigration and close the UK borders until ISIS is defeated”, was started in September by 62-year-old Tina Reeves, a Briton who lives in Spain.
It initially stood at 55,000. However, that number has gone up to 435,092 nationwide, following the Paris attacks on Friday night, and it keeps rising by the minute.
The number has risen by 1,000 in Tyne and Wear alone since yesterday – from more than 9,000 to more than 10,000 today.
Mr Jeff Townsend, who was running as an MP candidate for Sunderland Central in May’s election, responded to this petition by suggesting that Britons should get a better understanding about Islam.
He said: “The petition is extremely short-sighted and borne out of fear and lack of information instead of actually looking at the two issues separately.
“There needs to be a drive to understand all aspects of Islam. And the British public don’t know much about Islam but over the past decade have been confronted with its radical aspects.
“I would suggest that non-Muslims in Sunderland go and talk to an imam to understand Islam and the similarities it has with Christianity – for instance recognising Jesus as a prophet of God and recognising the second coming of Christ.
“We live in a democracy, however. And even if I don’t agree with the petition, if people do, they should sign it and force a parliamentary debate.”
In Newcastle, there are about 546 asylum seekers, which makes it the 22nd highest figure out of the 326 local councils throughout the UK. This has caused some tension, culminating in a flash demo by the North East English Defence League (EDL) on November 7.
Ian Brodie, ex-regional organiser and proactive member of the North East EDL, stated:
“The resources in the country are already as bad as it is without an influx of thousands of refugees.
“They put a strain on NHS, DHSS and housing basically, while there are servicemen who come back from war zones that are living on the streets. And refugees seem to get the houses, the benefits and they’re better looked after than veterans coming back from war zones.’’
Passer-by Lynda Wilson, a North Tyneside council employee, said: “I don’t particularly agree with them. I believe genuine refugees should be helped by our country and local councils with housing and stuff, but local homeless should be treated with equal measure.’’
Nick Brown, MP for Newcastle East, also believes Britain should help those displaced by the conflict in Syria and Iraq and that the UK government is not doing enough for the refugees.
He said: “I do not think the Government is doing enough to help with the relocation efforts, particularly for those migrants who have already reached Europe.
“We should do our fair share taking in and making refugees feel welcome, as well as playing our full proactive part in a world-wide effort to alleviate this humanitarian crisis.’’
Mr Brown did suggest, however, that the costs of dealing with the crisis are not equally shared amongst parliamentary constituencies, stating: “We should not lose sight of the fact that the costs of dealing with immigration are not evenly shared across the UK.
“For example, across the three Newcastle Parliamentary Constituencies there are 546 asylum seekers resident.
“This is the 22nd highest figure out of the 326 local council areas in the UK – the equivalent figure for Gateshead is 261. The figure for the Prime Minister’s Constituency is zero. The figure for the Chancellor’s Constituency is one. The figure for the Home Secretary’s constituency is four and the figure for the Foreign Secretary’s is two asylum seekers.’’