Letter: No justice in asylum lists

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The Independent Online
From Mr Alasdair Mackenzie

Sir: For years, refugees have been calling for their asylum claims to be dealt with speedily and fairly. The measures explained (letter, 29 November) by Ann Widdecombe, Minister of State in the Home Office, meet the first of these requirements but certainly not the second.

As Ms Widdecombe states, the Home Office has set up two separate lists of countries. It is seeking, first, to designate by law certain states as safe from persecution (the so called "white list"), while a second group of countries is being included on a "short procedure" list. The latter allows for supposedly "straightforward" asylum claims by people from those countries to be subject to an accelerated decision process.

Although the Home Office has drawn back from designating Algeria and Nigeria as safe, both countries do appear on the short procedure list. They share space with Sao Tome and Cape Verde, which do not feature in Amnesty International's annual report: the Home Office apparently thinks that people fleeing some of the world's most savage regimes are as "straightforward" to assess as those from places where there are no human rights abuses at all.

In fact, the practical effect of this short procedure will be little different from designating the countries in question as safe. People raising credible concerns for their safety are likely to be refused asylum, purely because, within days of arrival, they are unable to provide documentary evidence to support their claims. The potential for injustice is huge, and the Home Office is simply ignoring legal representatives such as ourselves when we state that these time limits are physically impossible to meet.

As the short procedure does not require legislation, our concern is that it is an attempt to bring in a "white list" through the back door.

Yours sincerely,

Alasdair Mackenzie

Co-ordinator

Asylum Aid

London, N1

29 November

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