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Boris Johnson expresses pride in his 'Muslim ancestry'

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Boris Johnson expresses pride in his 'Muslim ancestry'

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Local Government

Boris Johnson expresses pride in his 'Muslim ancestry' Boris Johnson expresses pride in his 'Muslim ancestry'

Boris Johnson has spoken of his pride in his Muslim immigrant ancestry as he pledged to back calls for illegal immigrants to be given legal status.

His support was echoed by the other three leading candidates in the London Mayoral election at an "accountability assembly" of 100 grassroots community groups based in the capital.

Would-be mayors Brian Paddick and Sian Berry promised to provide subsidised transport for failed asylum seekers in London travelling to meetings with immigration officials.

Mr Johnson and incumbent mayor Ken Livingstone both said they would look into doing this as well.

The four candidates were speaking at a meeting organised by London Citizens, an alliance of churches, mosques, temples, trade unions, schools and other community groups.

The 2,500 delegates at tonight's assembly called on the prospective mayors to support four proposals intended to improve life in the capital.

All the candidates backed giving regular legal status to undocumented migrants.

Mr Johnson, the Conservative nominee, was heckled by a man shouting "tell the truth" as he approached the microphone.

He said: "If an immigrant has been here for a long time and there is no realistic prospect of returning them, then I do think that person's condition should be regularised so that they can pay taxes and join the rest of society."

Mr Johnson spoke of his own family's immigrant status, adding that his Muslim great-grandfather who fled to Britain from Turkey would be very proud that his great-grandson was standing for mayor of London.

His short speech was greeted by loud cheers and some boos.

Mr Johnson also said he would "look at" London Citizen's call for failed asylum seekers to be provided with travel cards or vouchers to get to immigration offices.

On this policy, Mr Livingstone said he could foresee legal problems but had an idea for a way around it.

The current mayor said he would ask Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez if he could use some of the £14 million he has provided to subsidise bus travel for people on benefits to cover asylum seekers.

Mr Paddick said he was very proud that his party, the Liberal Democrats, were alone among the major political parties in supporting normalising illegal immigrants. Mr Livingstone said it was a "tragic miscalculation" on the part of the Labour government when it came to power in 1997 not to have an ``immediate amnesty for everybody".

London's mayor has no power to declare an amnesty for migrants without documents, but the delegates called on the nominees to take a lead on the issue.

The three other "citizens' agenda" policies drawn up by London Citizens received unanimous approval from the four candidates - with one or two provisos about details.

They were:

  • Making London's streets and public transport safer
  • Promoting the "London living wage", the amount required to live in the capital, set at £7.20 an hour
  • Providing more affordable housing

Sarfraz Jeraj, a community leader from south London, said the citizens' agenda reflected the concerns of Londoners trying to address the problems of crime and poverty.

"If the mayoral candidates want our votes on May 1, they have to prove their worth by signing up to our agenda and implementing it when in office," he said.

Mr Johnson was mobbed by people wanting his autograph and to pose for photographs with him as he left the hall.

But he was also confronted by a woman who accused him of being narrow-minded.

Audrey Dunkley, 34, from Croydon, south London, said afterwards she took offence at his use of the word "piccaninnies" in a newspaper column he wrote in 2002.

Mr Johnson told her: "I really don't think I'm remotely narrow-minded. I was misrepresented."

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