31 August 2007
The UK’s asylum system is rigged to fail as many applicants as possible. It is unjust, chaotic and inhumane.
Peter Tatchell interviews Dr Frank Arnold, clinical advisor to the Medical Justice Network; Puck de Raadt, an asylum worker with the Churches’ Commission on Racial Justice; and Maria, a former asylum detainee who fled persecution in an ex-Soviet bloc state (her full identity is withheld, to protect her family against retribution).
Peter Tatchell writes:
Innocent asylum applicants who have committed no crime, including children, are held in asylum detention centres. They are detained like common criminals in prison-like conditions, pending a ruling on their claims. Some spend several months, or even a year or more, in detention. Those detained have fewer legal rights than a person charged with murder or rape.
There have been persistent allegations of mistreatment in asylum detention centres; including allegations of racist and homophobic abuse, sexual harassment, physical assaults, deficient medical care and restricted access to legal representatives. Detained victims of torture often get little or no treatment and counselling, which prolongs their suffering and trauma.
The ‘fast-track’ asylum processing system does not give applicants adequate time to prepare their claims and gather corroborating medical and human rights evidence. Moreover, cuts in legal aid mean that solicitors no longer receive sufficient funding to prepare fully documented asylum applications. Not surprisingly, many asylum claims fail. This results in genuine refugees being labelled as bogus and deported back to their home countries to face further persecution.
There are reports of asylum deportees being violently restrained and incapacitated to force them onto planes. When they get back to their countries of origin, some are arrested, jailed and tortured, despite Home Office assurances that it was safe for them to return.
This is the harsh, cruel reality of Labour’s asylum system. The government’s priority is to cut asylum numbers, with little concern for the merits of individual cases. It is a policy devoid of justice or compassion.
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