Letter: Asylum seekers driven to despair

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The Independent Online
Sir: The disturbances last night (5 June) at Campsfield House detention centre is the third incident in recent months involving detained asylum seekers. The Medical Foundation has seen 40 detainees in prisons and detention centres throughout the UK. They had all fled imprisonment and torture, and expected to find safety and freedom in this country. Instead they found themselves detained for periods of up to nine months. Some of them had little idea of why they were detained. This treatment inevitably leads to imcomprehension and despair.

The detainees reported nightmares, flashbacks, sleep disturbance, weight loss and panic attacks. After examining them, our doctors were left wondering on what basis the decision to detain them was taken. Some have since been released and, although still not granted refugee status, have not absconded. Others continue to be detained for an indefinite period. They have no opportunity to have their detention reviewed, unlike remand prisoners.

Asylum seekers flee torture, persecution and imprisonment to find sanctuary in the UK. Instead of finding freedom, they are detained like criminals. Is it not time that the Government examined its conscience over its treatment of refugees?

Yours faithfully,

HELEN BAMBER

Director, Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture

London, NW5

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