I WAS born and brought up in Middlesbrough, one of the most multicultural towns in the North-East.

I grew up among peers who were mixed, not only in terms of race, but in culture, background and religion.

There was a room set aside at my comprehensive school every Ramadan where children and staff could find a quiet space, Urdu was taught alongside French and German and we were encouraged to learn about a variety of faiths in our religious education lessons.

When I think about my school – Hall Garth, as it was then – I think of how perfectly, in memory, it represented a microcosm of Middlesbrough in general.

With pupils drawn from across the town, from its leafy suburbs to its council estates and high rises, it was a melting pot of attitudes and experiences that undoubtedly shaped us all.

There was, as there always has been, racism and homophobia, bullying, shaming and conflict of all kinds. That darkness should not go unmentioned, it was vile and tortuous for those who were subjected to it.

But rubbing shoulders with Muslim, Sikh and Hindu peers, with kids of different races, those with disabilities, children raised by same-sex parents, the extravagantly rich and the desperately poor, provided us with perspectives that would not necessarily be found within our own homes and families.

Diversity was not a buzzword, back then. We were not taught that what we had, what Middlesbrough had and still has, was in some ways remarkable. It was our normal, our baseline.

There are a multitude of ways to grow from that.

For me, the diversity in the upbringing I had outside of my family meant that I reached the adult world without fear of difference, with an understanding of human commonalities and a tolerance born of the knowledge that people are ultimately people, whether they’re reading the Koran or the Bible, living in a mansion or a caravan.

I suspect that Hambleton councillor David Webster - who lives in a tiny North Yorkshire village and has been in office in the area since 1995 - could benefit from an education like mine, from spending some time in a more diverse setting.

This week, he demanded a raft of security exercises be conducted as Hambleton’s council discussed the possible dispersal of a small number of asylum seekers to the area.

In blanket statements immediately conflating their plight with terrorism, Cllr Webster's words stripped asylum seekers of their individuality, of their experiences, presenting them as a faceless group who represented little more than danger at his door.

This perspective, on a complex issue already shrouded in hysteria and stereotype, is as damaging as it is ignorant. It’s also one likely to have been shaped somewhat by environment, with Hambleton being arguably one of the least diverse areas in the region.

We don't need elected officials contributing to the atmosphere of hostility and suspicion being built on stereotypes that bear no resemblance to the vast, vast majority of asylum seekers seeking safety and shelter. It will do nothing but harm to some of the most vulnerable people in the world.