Letter: Detained immigrants are not criminals

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The Independent Online
Sir: Councillor Simon Mort (Letters, 29 April) claims that 'many' of the detainees at Campsfield House 'have criminal records in their own countries'. How does Mr Mort know this? If detainees had criminal records, they are unlikely to have confided that fact to him, or to the Group 4 guards who run Campsfield, or to the Home Office. Even if they had such information about detainees, neither immigration officials nor Group 4 are allowed to pass on information about detainees.

Has Mr Mort been checking up with the embassies of the countries from which the detainees come? Some of the countries asylum seekers come from might well claim that anyone who had dared to express opposition to the regime was a criminal: that is the sort of persecution which many people flee from. If he has indeed checked with embassies, has he realised that he may have endangered the families and associates of genuine refugees?

Mr Mort claims that some of the detainees have been apprehended importing drugs. Campsfield House is not a prison. People caught importing drugs are charged with a crime and are handled by the criminal justice system.

Yes, indeed some are illegal immigrants and overstayers. But the UN Convention on Refugees lays down that no one should be punished for being present in a country illegally (ie, without the correct travel documents), provided he reports to the authorities and shows good cause for this (1951 Convention, Article 31, 1).

Yours faithfully,

M. LOUISE PIROUET

Co-ordinator

Charter '87 for Refugees

Cambridge

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