Letter: Labour's approach to asylum-seekers

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The Independent Online
Sir: The abysmal treatment of asylum-seekers detained on arrival in the United Kingdom is well documented by Amnesty International in a report released today. Many of these people have fled from repression and persecution in their own countries only to be subject to inhumane and degrading treatment in prisons and detention centres here.

The Home Office seems unable to stand by its detention practices. In a letter to Charter 88 on 25 April 1994, Charles Wardle, then Home Office minister, conceded that Pentonville prison 'does not provide the best environment for holding immigration detainees'. Yet the Conservatives seem loathe to take steps to remedy grave injustices.

Labour would seek to adopt a system in which detention was used only in the most pressing circumstances and as an absolute last resort in all cases. We would also ensure that detainees were treated humanely and given their due rights in line with the UK's international and European commitments.

These would include free and independent legal representation and written statements for the reasons for detention, both of which are sadly lacking at the moment. In addition, there would be a limit to the length of time for which detainees could be held and special attention would be paid to the physical and mental health of detainees.

Yours faithfully, GRAHAM ALLEN MP for Nottingham North (Lab) House of Commons London, SW1 17 October The writer is Labour's spokesman on immigration.

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