Judge damns refugees treatment

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The Independent Online

An indictment of the way Britain deals with victims of overseas torture was delivered yesterday in a High Court case that revealed how two people who bore scars from beatings with hot irons and steel wire were placed in a detention centre and denied immediate medical attention.

The judge adjudicating in the case of a woman, 27, from the Ivory Coast and a Turkish Kurdish man, 38, said their treatment at the Oakington detection centre reflected a "persistent and sustained failure" to provide the minimum level of care to which the Government has committed itself through legislation. The regime at Oakington, Cambridgeshire came under strong attack last year by the prisons and probation ombudsman.

The Turkish Kurd arrived in Britain in April last year with injuries which suggested he had a strong case for refuge. He told immigration staff immediately that he had "proof" on his body of torture: swollen legs and hot iron marks on his shoulders, sustained through a series of beatings which took place from 1997 to 1999. The man was listed for fast-track processing and sent to Oakington, pending a decision. There, under Detention Centre Rule 24, introduced in Parliament in 2001, he should have been seen by a doctor within 24 hours.

But it was only after speaking of the "nightmare of his tortures" and complaining of feeling unwell on 5 May last year that he was allowed to see a nurse.

The man was released after four days.

The woman was seen by a nurse at Oakington but it took two days to examine her medically. She said she had been diagnosed with Hepatitis B and had miscarried due to mistreatment in prison. She also gave a vivid description of being "walked on", spat at and humiliated by tormentors who whipped her with steel wire.. She was released from Oakington on 18 May last year.

Mr Justice Davis said in yesterday's judgment that the failure to examine the two within 24 hours of their arrival was "not a rare and regrettable lapse". He told the court the failure to comply with the Detention Centre Rules had been going on for years and was "the culmination of a long-standing state of affairs".