Britain 'jails 10,000 a year without trial': Report condemns detention under immigration laws as a scandal without parallel in Europe

MORE than 10,000 people are imprisoned without trial, charge or conviction every year, according to a survey published yesterday.

Held under immigration laws, these men and women have become known as 'Britain's forgotten prisoners'. Their detention will have been ordered by the Home Office which alone also decides how long they must remain in custody.

Few will get the chance to have their loss of liberty independently assessed by a court.

None will be told how long they are to stay in prison - some have been held for as long as 18 months, yet have committed no offence.

Most are black and many are asylum seekers who, fleeing torture and oppression and hoping for refuge in the UK, find themselves incarcerated instead. At yesterday's launch of a report which claims the Home Office is making excessive and unfair use of prison as a means of immigration control and deterrence, their plight was described yesterday as 'one of the gravest scandals in British society'.

Claude Moraes, director of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, which produced the report, said: 'No other European Community country uses these kinds of powers or detains people at this level.'

Further, the report reveals that many detainees are held in appalling conditions. Some have been held in police cells - not designed for stays of more than a few hours.

Some have been held in overcrowded local prisons, like Pentonville, where they are confined to their cells for up to 23 hours a day.

But according to Mark Ashford, author of the report, one of the worst effects on detainees is the uncertainty over their futures. 'They are living literally on a knife edge. They are never given any explanations. They never know if they are to be shifted out, sent back to their country, and sent for trial.'

For many the ordeal proves too much. While some detainees will be students and visitors seeking to enter the UK and some who have been resident for some years but are then accused of breaching immigration rules, the most vulnerable are asylum seekers. Since 1987 four asylum-seekers have committed suicide and others have made serious attempts.

Doctors from the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims and Torture quoted in the report said that prison conditions 'can inherently stimulate refugees to relive their experiences (so-called flashbacks) which are well recognised in survivors of torture'.

In the first six months of 1991, they saw 150 detainees who had suffered a history of torture. They concluded that imprisonment imposes 'unnecessary cruelty and degradation on people already distressed by torture and loss'. The JCWI report calls for public scrutiny of immigration policy and practice because . . . 'it concerns the fundamental right of liberty of the individual; it raises the question of racial discrimination and it involves criminalising people for actions not obviously detrimental to society'.

It calls for detention only in exceptional circumstances with the immigration service being compelled to give written and specific reasons in each case. This should be automatically subject to independent and regular reviews.

However, a Home Office spokesman said yesterday: 'Only a very small number of people are detained. In 1991, 8.1 million people came from outside the EC - 45,000 were asylum seekers.

'In that period we detained and removed 4,500 people under our enforcement programme. Eighty-five per cent of people detained are held for less than a fortnight.'

Detention Without Trial; Mark Ashford, JCWI, 115, Old Street, London EC1V 9JR; pounds 4.99.

The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
Life and Style

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album