UK's `civil rights abuses' go to UN

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Civil rights groups are to complain to the United Nations that the Government is flagrantly violating human rights in its "appalling and unjust" treatment of asylum seekers, migrants and refugees.

"Unjust" laws and guidelines and an "overall lack of concern" about internationally agreed rights for these groups were condemned in the report published today by the civil rights group, Liberty, and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

Highlighting the case of Joy Gardner, a Jamaican woman, who died after a struggle with police as they went to deport her, the report claims there is much concern about the use of "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" during deportations. It also echoes criticism from Amnesty and other groups about the overuse of detention of refugees and immigrants. The report says an average of 1,500 people were detained under deportation powers each year between 1989 and 1994.

"Detention of asylum seekers is often arbitrary and detainees are not always informed of the reason for their detention, nor given an automatic right to challenge it before a court of law," it says.

The report is to be submitted to the United Nations' Human Rights Committee, which will discuss the United Kingdom's record in Geneva next July.

The report comes after a sharp rise in asylum applications. In March 1993 there were 42,170 awaiting a decision, but by September last year the figure had risen to 52,760.

Immigration lawyers have pointed to an increase in the number of asylum seekers being refused entry to Britain since the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act became law in July 1993, claiming a "culture of disbelief" towards applicants is prevalent at the Home Office.

Andrew Puddephatt, general secretary of Liberty, said: "Incarcerating asylum seekers with convicted criminals in prisons, and denying them proper appeal procedures, breaches international laws and is both inhuman and degrading."

n The Last Resort: violations of the human rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers; Liberty; 21 Tabard Street, London SE1; £3.80.