Britain’s ‘Inhumane and oppressive’ Asylum Policy

A new report, compiled by the Independent Asylum Commission, has been published and it delivers a damning condemnation of the Asylum Policy here in the United Kingdom. It is reported to be the most comprehensive examination of the UK’s asylum system ever conducted. It found the United Kingdom’s Asylum policy is “marred by inhumanity” and “not yet fit for purpose”.

The report details how the system is failing applicants from the very first stage of the process. The report also tells how the system “falls seriously below the standards to be expected of a humane and civilised society”.

I have blogged several times on Asyum and immigration system o the United Kingdom, and I’m sure regular readers who have read these entries will know that I have bene critical of it and that I am not a fan of the system at all. To be honest, as disturbing as this report is, I am not at all surprised by its conclusions. The policy in the United Kingdom on Asylum often seems to be geared towards trying to appease the readers of certain daily tabolid newspapers (The Daily Mail) and is not about what is humane and just or about meeting our obligations uder International Law!

The Independent Newspaper reported that: “Three areas of the system came under particular fire. The use of detention centres – especially to lock up children, pregnant women and torture victims – was condemned, as was the often brutal handling of removals, and the use of destitution as a tool to drive claimants out of the country.”

I will look at two of these three things mentioned above in turn later in this blog entry (I should point out at this time, that this entry is – wihout doubt – going to be lengthy).

The report has found that “Some of those seeking sanctuary, particularly women, children and torture survivors, have additional vulnerabilities that are not being appropriately addressed,”

Use of Detention Centres

Detention centres are widely used in the United Kingdom’s Immigration policy. According to Barbed Wire Britain “Over 2,600 people, nearly all of them asylum seekers, are locked up in detention camps and prisons in Britain…”

These centres are used to hold foreign nationals who are either awaiting a decision on their application or awaiting deportation following a failed asylum application. They are held in these centres extra-judicially (they wont have seen the inside of a court before going there), without any limit on time or any possibility of bail.

There are currently three types of Immigration detention centres in the United Kingdom: accommodation or reception centres, the removal centre and the removal prison. The latter two were much like prison facilities, with the aim being to impose restrictions on the movement of the detainees, so that the government can monitor their whereabouts whilst their claims are being processed. Indeed, some asylum seekers are actually held in prisons.

The former, set up in 2002, aim to improve the management of asylum seekers and provide facilities such as health, education and leisure (but be under no impression, they are still not nice places to be – especially for those who are claiming asylum for genuine reasons). The centres were set up following public concern over illegal immigration and the increasing number of asylum seekers. Once again, the United Kingdom Government has introduced a policy to ease public concern and have gone about it the wrong way.

Immigration, as I’ve explained in the past, is very complicated. There are many types of immigrants who come to Britain. The main problems with illegal immigration do not come from the asylum process, and certainly not fro those just entering the country. Providing they claim asylum when they arrive the United Kingdom they are not committing any crime, but some have their liberty removed from them when they enter. The main problems of illegal immigration are where foreign nationals are trafficked into the country for the purposes of prostitution or are trafficked into the UK to take on cash-in-hand and low paid work (maybe even in the Home Office).

The use of these centres, I find, is abhorrent and quite simply unjustifiable. In the report the commissioners said: “The detention of asylum-seekers is overused, oppressive and an unnecessary burden on the taxpayer.” The report branded the detention of children as “wholly unjustified”. I would go further and suggest that the detention of children in these circumstances is morally reprehensible.

Removals

The removal of failed asylum seekers is just as abhorrent. They typically consist of Police and Officers of the Border and Immigration Agency using force at dawn to remove failed asylum seekers (often to the centres described above). In many of these cases there are no indications what so ever that these failed asylum seekers would refuse to go, and even if they were to does it really require such a disgusting tactic? These tactics are used irrespective of who is in the house – even young children have to suffer this.

These tactics have been condemned nationally often. I am sure we can all recall stories that we have read in newspapers, seen on TV or heard on the radio of these brutal tactics being used. Any decent human with any sense of humanity would be sickened by such tactics.

Could you imagine it? You’re in your bed, fast a sleep and suddenly at five/six in the morning your front door is put in and your home is swamped with Police and Immigration officials? Then while you are still half a sleep and with little time to get ready, you are taken from your home to a detention centre and only then is it explained o you in a language that you can fully understand what is happening. It really is sickening.

Other issues that were highlighted by this report include the lack of understanding by Immigration officials when interviewing asylum seekers. Those claiming asylum will often have fled from some unimaginable circumstances. Many will be victims of rape or torture. If a female was to walk into a police station to report a rape she would, in the vast majority of circumstances, be treated with care and sensitivity and she would be afforded to talk about what happened with an understanding that it would be very difficult. This is often not the case with asylum claims.

To conclude this rather long entry (before it gets any longer), the entire system needs an urgent and radical overhaul to make it more humane, better equipped and aimed towards providing a place of sanctuary to those who need it. The United Kingdom clearly fails in its International Obligations under the various Asylum treaties forming the International Law on the subject.

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