FUNDRAISING NEWS: Migration Watch ads face attack

Maria Clegg

Charities have criticised a new national fundraising campaign by an anti-immigration organisation.

Migration Watch UK took out two ads in the Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph to coincide with the release of new Home Office figures on asylum seekers.

The organisation is appealing for funds to set up a small permanent office in Westminster to "conduct wider research and make our voice even more effective", which it estimates will cost around £300,000 a year.

Migration Watch's web site raises controversial issues based on projections for large numbers of asylum seekers arriving from non-EU countries.

A spokeswoman for the Refugee Council condemned the fundraising campaign as "scaremongering", and based purely on facts that "did not stand up to scrutiny".

Leigh Daynes, communications manager of Refugee Action, described the timing of the fundraising campaign to coincide with new statistics on asylum seekers as "cynical". He added: "One of the great problems is that there is a policy vacuum on this issue. Successive administrations have failed to develop a long-term strategy and Migration Watch is cynically playing on public fears.

It is deft at exploiting media opportunities.

"People are desperate for information, but this campaign is wilfully designed to polarise debate and perpetuate the climate of fear. This has direct consequences for our clients in terms of the abuse that they face when going about their day-to-day business."

But Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migration Watch, defended the campaign.

"We are not opposed to the work of refugee agencies, nor are we in competition with them - we have very different audiences. However, we are opposed to large-scale immigration," he said.

Despite Migration Watch's claims to have no political links, it will not be applying for charitable status. "We would be regarded by the Charity Commission as a one-issue organisation," said Green.

Daynes added that Migration Watch's influence far exceeds its authority. "Sir Andrew is being presented as a credible commentator on one of the most important issues of the day, and he is not," he said.

But Green denied the claim. "I am a very experienced public official, and have been a policy-maker for 35 years. I have made a considerable study of this subject. (These accusations) are absurd," he said.

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