Letter: Hunger-striking asylum seekers at crisis point in detention centres

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Sir: We warmly welcome the Independent's coverage of the detention of asylum seekers and their consequent protests. The Home Office's justification: 'We only detain when there is no alternative and where there are grounds for believing that the person concerned will not comply with any restrictions imposed', does not hold water.

Those working closely with asylum seekers can discern no consistency in the pattern of detentions. Recently a Home Office official, when questioned about the policy, indicated that detaining asylum seekers is a message to others seeking to come here. Using detention as a deterrent may be a reality, but it is unlawful.

One asylum seeker was detained on arrival, released, and later redetained while attending an interview with an official. He recalled bitterly that the official reassured him that everything was all right, but then said that he would not be allowed to go. He thought the official was joking but found himself taken to a London prison without explanation. There he became increasingly distressed during the months that followed. Many months later he continues to comply with the Home Office restrictions while awaiting the outcome of his asylum application.

Safeguards should be introduced immediately so that no one on British soil may be detained at the whim of officials and without coming before the judicial authorities.

Yours sincerely,



Charter '87 for Refugees

St Albans, Hertfordshire