Jewish community leaders have blasted the “totally inappropriate” requirement that asylum seekers wear coloured wristbands, after the practice was likened to Jews having to wear yellow stars during the Holocaust.

The furore comes after a Home Office contractor gave migrants from the Middle East and North Africa brightly coloured bands to wear at all times, a practice Jewish representatives said could lead to “racism or worse”.

Board of Deputies’ vice-president Marie van der Zyl said: “The proposal of making asylum seekers wear coloured wristbands is totally inappropriate. 

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An asylum seeker with a red wristband (Source: Screenshot from Guardian video)

“With Holocaust Memorial Day this week, we must be particularly alive to the fact that publicly identifying vulnerable minorities in this way can lead to crude racism or worse. 

“While there clearly needs to be a sensible of means of registering and identifying asylum seekers, this misguided proposal should be dropped and a sensible, non-stigmatising, alternative should be found instead.”

The wristbands were given to asylum seekers at temporary accommodation in Cardiff, so they could claim meals, but the Welsh Refugee Council said it echoed the yellow star Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany.

“It harks back to the Nazi regime with people being forced to wear a Star of David and stand out,” said WRC policy officer Hannah Wharf, speaking to the BBC. 

“It’s absolutely appalling. It is treating people like lesser beings. It is treating them like animals lining up to feed.”

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said it was “alarming,” adding that the government had “serious questions” to answer. 

“Such a visible indicator is unnecessary and has left a community already under suspicion open to further harassment and distress,” she said. 

“I will be writing to the Home Secretary to seek assurance that this practice will not be repeated anywhere else in the UK.” 

The Home Office declined to comment on the matter, saying it was “an operational issue” for Clearsprings Ready Homes, the organisation providing the accommodation and a long-time Home Office contractor.

A spokeswoman for Clearsprings defended the use but said they would switch to photo IDs following the wave of criticism.