LONDON British politicians berated a local council in England on Saturday after it removed children from a foster family's care because of its support for a political party that wants the UK to exit the European Union and backs tighter immigration rules.
The row has spotlighted the UK Independence Party (UKIP) that has seen its popularity rise in recent months on the back of growing voter disenchantment with Britain's membership of the EU, and has raised hackles among conservative politicians who accuse the left of excessive political correctness.
The decision to remove the children from the couple's care because of their support for UKIP was taken by Rotherham Council in the north of England which is controlled by Britain's opposition Labour party.
Speaking to the BBC, Joyce Thacker, strategic director of children and young people's services on the council, said she had to decide whether some foster placements were appropriate for particular children.
"These (particular) children are from EU migrant backgrounds and UKIP has very clear statements on ending multi-culturalism, (on) not having that going forward, and I have to think about how sensitive am I being to these children," she said.
Media reports said the council has launched an investigation into the matter. The council could not be reached for comment.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage condemned the council's move.
"We are a non-racist, non-sectarian political party ... they (the couple) were giving those children love and stability and all the things they need," he said.
"They have been discriminated against .... on the basis that they support a party that says we shouldn't be part of the European Union and we should control our borders and that is the most appalling prejudice," he said.
UKIP's website calls for an end to "mass uncontrolled immigration" and says that no more than 50,000 immigrants should be allowed to enter Britain each year.
The ruling Conservative Party has said it wants to reduce annual net migration "down to the tens of thousands".
Farage's party does not have a seat in parliament but is growing in popularity. UKIP put in a strong showing earlier this month in a bellwether local vote in the British constituency of Corby, coming in third.
"This decision is arbitrary, ideological, indefensible," said Education Secretary Michael Gove, calling for an investigation into the matter.
Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition Labour party, said political affiliation should not affect fostering prospects.
"What matters is the future of children in Rotherham and elsewhere and being a member of a political party like UKIP should not be a bar on fostering children," he said.
"So we need to find out the facts and the council urgently needs to get to the bottom of exactly what happened in this case," he said.
(Reporting by Mohammed Abbas; Editing by Andrew Osborn)