Letter: Labour's profligate promise on refugees

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Sir: Amnesty International welcomes the Labour Party's endorsement (letter, 20 October) of our report Prisoners Without a Voice: Asylum-Seekers Detained in the United Kingdom, and in particular Graham Allen's pledge that a Labour government would ensure that detention is used only where absolutely necessary.

However, while Mr Allen indicates that a Labour government would also ensure that those who are detained are properly informed of the reason for detention, as we have urged, he makes no commitment to a system for ensuring that those reasons are subject to scrutiny by an independent review body.

Such a commitment was also missing from Mr Allen's speech on this issue at a Labour Party conference fringe meeting in Blackpool earlier this month.

We believe that independent scrutiny and review of the decision to detain is essential if cases of unnecessary detention are to be avoided. We also believe that the introduction of such due process could save pounds 4m or more a year in detention costs. The Government is clearly prepared to see this money wasted in an attempt to deter would-be refugees, but could a Labour government afford to be so profligate?

Yours faithfully, RICHARD DUNSTAN Refugee Officer Amnesty International London, EC1 20 October