Home Secretary urged to respond to deportation abuse allegations

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Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, is facing calls for a full Commons statement into allegations that hundreds of people being deported from Britain faced beatings and racial abuse by their official escort teams.

MPs of all parties expressed horror at cases of alleged abuse highlighted by The Independent.

But the Home Office's Borders and Immigration Agency insisted that its staff were expected to act with "integrity and professionalism" and said that evidence of alleged abuse would be fully investigated.

Yesterday, The Independent revealed that a dossier of 200 cases collated by doctors, lawyers, immigration centre visitors and campaigners had uncovered claims of physical and mental mistreatment. The authors have accused the Government of turning a blind eye to the abuse to meet targets for the repatriation of failed asylum seekers.

The allegations follow anger over the treatment of asylum seekers from countries like Burma, Zimbabwe and Sudan, despite Government condemnation of the regimes in power there.

In a letter to The Independent today, Jonathan Lindley, the director of enforcement at the Border and Immigration Agency, insisted that Britain had a "proud record" of protecting genuine refugees, and said any evidence of mistreatment would be investigated.

He said: "The Border and Immigration Agency expects staff to act with integrity and professionalism including those who work for our private sector contractors. Any allegations of misconduct are rigorously investigated by the police, and the vast majority of asylum seekers are treated with care and compassion."

He said if there was evidence of mistreatment, "We would expect it to be provided to the police and the Border and Immigration Agency for investigation".

Damian Green, the shadow Immigration Minister, called for an urgent statement to MPs regarding the allegations.

"Any incident of mistreatment deserves an urgent and serious investigation. If there are serious problems, then let's hope ministers actually stand up and accept responsibility, rather than hiding behind their officials like Home Office ministers usually do," he said.