Seekers of asylum 'ill-treated by Britain'

ASYLUM-SEEKERS, many of whom have fled torture in their own countries, are arriving in Britain only to suffer further human rights abuses, according to two reports published today.

Many are detained or imprisoned for months - one was held for 17 months - without being told why and without any chance to put their case to a court or tribunal. About 600 asylum-seekers are in detention.

The effect of custody on people who are already fearful for themselves and their families is devastating, the reports say. Three of the 50 people seeking refugee status, who were the subjects of a report by Amnesty International, tried to commit suicide. Three others, not part of the report, have killed themselves.

Of the 47 asylum-seekers who were the subjects of the other report, by the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, two had tried to hang themselves and eight needed psychiatric care.

Amnesty concluded that in each of the 50 cases there had been breaches of human rights legislation or internationally agreed standards. None of the asylum-seekers had been properly informed why they were being detained. In 31 cases, there was no independent review. More than half were held in jails for criminals and the average length of their detention was 154 days - almost three times as long as criminals on remand awaiting trial.

Yesterday, a Home Office spokeswoman said: 'We take our obligation to genuine refugees very seriously and we do not accept that our legislation is in breach of international conventions on human rights.' But Amnesty challenged her assertion that detention was used only as a last resort. It said nearly half the people in the study were eventually granted asylum or released and given temporary leave to remain in the country - but only after months of detention.

Richard Dunstan, Amnesty's refugee officer, who carried out the study, said that in most cases he could find no differences between the circumstances of the refugees who were locked up and of those who were not. This heightened Amnesty's view that decisions to lock asylum-seekers up were arbitrary.

Mr Dunstan said. 'We don't have a criminal justice system whereby police officers can send people to prison without telling them why or allowing them to go before a court, so why do we have such a system for refugees?'

Amnesty and the Medical Foundation called on the Government to introduce safeguards to ensure asylum-seekers were held only as a last resort. They include removing the power to detain from immigration officers, ensuring that refugees are notified in writing of reasons for detention, the right to legal advice, and an oral review within seven days.

Prisoners Without a Voice; Amnesty International, 99-119 Roseberry Avenue, London EC1R 4RE; pounds 6.99.

A Betrayal of Hope and Trust; Medical Foundation for Care of Victims of Torture, 96-98 Grafton Road, London NW5 3EJ.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor