Hannes Swoboda blames Cnservatives and Ukip for murder of Joele Leotta
Hannes Swoboda blames Conservatives and Ukip for murder of Joele Leotta

A senior politician in Europe has blamed the death of a teenager in Kent on the Conservative party and Ukip.

Hannes Swoboda, who leads a group of socialists and democrats in the European Parliament, blamed "negative rhetoric against foreigners" by British Eurosceptic politicians for Joele Leotta's death.

Swoboda told MEPs in Brussels that his death was the consequence of "populist campaigns" by Ukip and the Conservatives which created an "ugly mood" for violence to flourish in.

His comments sparked demands for an apology. Conservative MP Peter Bone told IBTimes UK: "It's nonsense and he should butt out of things he knows nothing about."

Leotta, 18, died after he was allegedly beaten by a gang who attacked him at a flat above a restaurant where he was working as a waiter in Maidstone.

Swoboda said: "Campaigns such as vans with slogans telling immigrants to 'go home' and continuous negative rhetoric against foreigners - including EU citizens - are creating an ugly mood in Britain, which has long prided itself on being an open-minded and tolerant nation.

"Populists complain about migrants being out of work and abusing welfare systems - although statistics clearly show that migrant workers in the UK are far less likely to claim benefits than British citizens.

"I call on the British government to stop their ambiguous PR campaigns and scapegoating of migrant workers and set a better example for a decent and tolerant society."

Conservative MEP Martin Callananh called on Swoboda to withdraw his remark.

He said: "To attribute blame to the British government's crackdown on illegal immigration is exceptionally low. Hannes Swoboda should apologise for politicising a tragedy.

"Britain has always been a tolerant country that welcomes migrants who come to work and to contribute to society. We will continue to be."

Four Lithuanian men have appeared in court accused of beating Leotta to death. The incident was alleged to have happened only days after the teenager came to the UK to learn English and to work.

His death sparked anger in Italy and a flood of tributes to a Facebook page which was set up in his memory.