The Government provoked outrage yesterday by announcing that asylum-seekers living in new Home Office accommodation centres will be under curfew and their claims for sanctuary will be rejected if they are found to be absent at night.
Lord Rooker, a Home Office minister, said most were financially motivated and had abandoned their families. "The majority are young single men who have deserted their families for economic advantage, not to put too fine a point on it," he added at a Home Office briefing.
Any asylum-seeker housed at three new accommodation centres who spent a night with friends or relatives would be deemed to have breached their "contract" with the Government and would automatically fail in their asylum claim, he added. "If you don't stay the night, you give up your claim."
The briefing was to announce the building of three centres in rural areas in Worcestershire, Oxfordshire and Nottinghamshire. Lord Rooker said residents of the centres could not "have a couple of nights off to go to a pop festival or see [their] sister or anybody else".
Asylum-seekers, including families, who are held at the planned centres, will spend up to six months waiting for their claims to be considered. Officially, they are not being detained and will not have broken immigration laws or committed other crimes. But although they will be free to leave the centres during the day, Home Office sources indicated their curfew was likely to begin at 11.30pm or midnight.
Nick Hardwick, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: "Refugees have fled persecution and torture, and the proposal by the Government to reject an asylum-seeker's claim because they spend a night out of an accommodation centre visiting friends or family is so disproportionate it verges on the absurd."