A GROUP providing support for refugees in the North-East has spoken out about concerns about how asylum seekers could be treated under proposed changes to immigration law.

Darlington Assistance for Refugees (DAR) has spoken out against the proposed changes, which the Government says will better protect those in need of asylum, deter illegal entry into the UK and make it easier to remove people from the UK.

But it has been criticised by campaigners who are urging the government to rethink the proposed policy shift and are concerned about changes to how people are treated depending on how they arrived in the UK.

DAR, which is celebrating Refugee Week this week with a unity walk aimed at getting people together, is backing the Together With Refugees campaign, which launched this month and is calling for a "kinder, fairer and more effective approach" to supporting refugees in the UK.

Fran Wood, DAR chair, said: "We are really worried about the new immigration bill, Already asylum seekers are regarded as second class citizens, To create another tier of people who are put into detention centres because of the way they arrived is horrendous.

"They are inhumane. What keeps asylum seekers going is interactions with the community."

She added: "I know so many asylum seekers who donate blood and volunteer their time. They are trying to do as much as they can to keep themselves occupied and contribute to the community. The asylum bill is going to make it very difficult to do anything."

This week, DAR is sharing videos featuring some of its members to introduce them to the community and explain why they are celebrating Refugee Week.

And last night, the town's clock was turned orange to mark the week.

On Saturday, the group will be taking part in a unity walk with community group More in Common Darlington, which is part of a network of organisations set up in memory of murdered MP Jo Cox.

The walk takes place around the Northgate area on Sunday, meeting at the bandstand in North Lodge park at 12noon.

Ms Wood, who is concerned about recent racist attacks in the town, added: "We felt it was really important for people in Darlington to understand the stories of other people's reality and walk and learn about each other."

"That's the aim really."

She said: "We need to be very careful about how as a community we respond to what's going on. There is an insidious flow of racist behaviour which is becoming a norm and we need to be really careful about that.

"The walk is a positive thing so people can spend time listening to each other, which is so important, especially after lockdown when so many people are isolated."