Thursday, September 04, 2014

‘Seeking Asylum is a Human Right, Not A Crime’

Today a ground breaking inquiry into the use of immigration detention in the UK has been launched.

Imagine a country where, at the stroke of a pen and without any recourse to a judge, a faceless Government official can deprive someone of their liberty and consign them indefinitely to what to all intents and purposes is a prison, without them having being charged with or convicted of any crime.

That country is Britain. And if you thought that this use of state power was characteristic only of dictatorships or tyrannies, then think again, as it’s happening here, on our doorstep, under our noses, without any fuss and certainly without any publicity.

Today, in 11 Immigration Removal Centres around the UK, people are being detained, with minimal information about what’s happening to them and with scant access to a lawyer. And yet they’ve neither been accused, nor found guilty of, any wrongdoing. In fact, all that they’ve done is to have the temerity to exercise their legal right to seek refugee protection in the UK.

These are people who have fled persecution in their home countries and are deeply traumatised by their experiences. Some will be torture or rape survivors, others will have witnessed harm inflicted on their families and friends, many will have been incarcerated and brutalised.

We know from countless personal testimonies and independent medical reports that, for many of those held in detention in the UK, the experience triggers harrowing memories of the fear and the pain they’ve suffered at the hands of their previous captors. Unsurprisingly, this treatment more often than not undermines their mental or physical stability, a consequence further exacerbated by the lack of any meaningful judicial oversight, which means that the authorities are rarely ever required to explain or account for their decisions to detain.

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