Letter: Detention: a policy to deter refugees?

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The Independent Online
Sir: The detention of asylum- seekers (Letters, 8 June) is on the rise not just in the United Kingdom, but in Europe generally. It would be helpful if the Home Office and the human rights community would recognise and agree that there are both legitimate and illegitimate grounds for detention.

Chief among the valid reasons is the reasonable likelihood that some - a distinct minority - will abscond. Among the invalid reasons is the deterrence of persons from seeking asylum, a guaranteed right under both international and UK law. Some suspect, but have not proven, that many European governments are increasing detention as part of an overall policy of keeping asylum-seekers at bay, a policy which includes carriers liability and visa requirements.

How can the Government's legitimate concerns with disappearing asylum-seekers and its legal commitments be reconciled? Here the American experience may be instructive. The US Immigration Service has implemented a programme of allowing community groups to post bond for asylum-seekers deemed likely to abscond. This gives such groups a financial and political stake in assuring that their compatriots will co-operate with the Immigration Service. Although some applicants still disappear, most parties, including the Immigration Service, consider the programme a success.

If the genuine intent of the Home Office is to assure compliance with refugee status determination procedures and to meet its legal commitments, then a willingness to consider such an arrangement should be forthcoming. Its unwillingness would lead to other conclusions.

Yours faithfully,

ANDREW SHACKNOVE

Lecturer in Law

Oxford University

Oxford

8 June

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