Asylum-seekers awaiting EU court ruling on detention

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The Independent Online

Thousands of asylum-seekers who are routinely detained in fast-track removal centres while their claims are being considered by the Home Office could win the right to freedom when judges in Europe deliver a landmark ruling tomorrow.

If the European Court of Human Rights rules in favour of Dr Shayan Baram Saadi, an Iraqi Kurd who has since won the right to asylum in the UK, the Government would have to release refugees who have arrived lawfully and pose no risk of absconding.

Such a ruling would be a blow to Labour's policy for the speedy removal of failed asylum-seekers. Under the present system, refugees who have fully co-operated with the authorities are detained at Oakington Reception Centre where their cases are fast tracked. The vast majority are removed within days, some with little chance of challenging the decision.

Human rights groups argue that depriving any individual of their liberty can only be legally justified when it is necessary rather than administratively convenient.

Dr Saadi, a member of the Iraqi Communist Party, immediately claimed asylum upon arriving at Heathrow on 30 December 2000 and was granted temporary admission. He co-operated fully with the authorities, but was subsequently detained. He successfully appealed and was granted asylum in January 2003.

Dr Saadi and three other Kurdish Iraqi detainees claim that their detention was unlawful. Liberty's legal officer Alex Gask said: "It is tragic to imprison foreign nationals fleeing prosecution for mere administrative convenience."

The Court of Appeal and the House of Lords have upheld the Government's position that the detention was "to prevent unauthorised entry" and that the measure was not disproportionate.

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