Letter: Rights for refugees

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The Independent Culture
Sir: While we are ready to criticise the human rights record of other countries, we ourselves ignore articles in four different international conventions on human rights for refugees ("Britain is hell for refugees", 26 July).

In Haslar and Rochester prisons, immigration detention centres' visiting times are regulated by prison regimes, and "association times" are at the discretion of prison officers and often curtailed. Moreover, in Rochester detainees may not receive incoming calls.

Convicted criminals have fairer treatment in the UK than asylum-seekers, who have broken no British law. The UK spends pounds 15.5m on immigration detention. Yet we find it necessary to give refugees who need benefits only 70 per cent of the income support a British family gets.

I am a volunteer for Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID). Its work is needed because legal aid for bail is not available to refugees.

The Civil Liberties Research Unit of King's College London, has found that 49 per cent of cases dealt with by Bid were still awaiting a Home Office decision at the time of their bail hearing, at an average length of detention of 11.5 weeks; 36 per cent were male heads of households, detained despite their families being in the UK.

All this breaches the Government's own Guidelines on Immigration Detention, but there is no effective means of correcting the actions of the Immigration Service.

ILSE BOAS

Edgware, Middlesex

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