Hampshire Chronicle, 5 February 1999

Colin Firth highlights asylum-seekers' plight

Colin Firth, the actor who played Mr Darcy, in the TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, was in Winchester on Saturday to highlight the plight of asylum-seekers.

He took a high-profile role in Voices in a Strange Land, an event organised by the Winchester Action Group On Asylum Seekers, (WAGAS) at King Alfred's College.

WAGAS has successfully campaigned for the release of 20 asylum-seekers from Winchester Prison.

The Winchester actor became passionate about the subject seven months ago after reading an article in a national newspaper about a 19-year-old asylum-seeker who had fled torture in Nigeria.

He was then held in a British detention centre where he alleges he was tortured by Group Four.

Said Firth: "It is disgusting that we have a gap in our system where this kind of thing is possible, where the authorities can do this with impunity," he said.

"These people are not all freeloaders. If you have an Iraqi dissident who's had the guts to get out of Iraq and come over here, does that sound like a sponging freeloader to you?"

The three-hour event was packed, with latecomers turned away.

They were treated to poetry readings by Yugoslav writer Miroslav Jancic and former Nobel Prize nominee Esmail Kho'i, as well as dance from the Congo and Kurdistan, and singers from Somalia and Iraq.

"It is a drop in the ocean," said Firth, "But we are just trying to raise awareness."

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