LETTER: Rush to deport desperate people

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The Independent Online
Sir: Thank you for the very moving front-page story (8 February) on the "human anguish behind the immigration debate". The political auction centres on economic immigration, but the desperate plight of asylum seekers must not be conflated with that, as your correspondents point out.

Here in Oxford, with Campsfield House Removal Centre on our doorstep, we are well aware of the gradual erosion of any humane response to the refugees who need the sanctuary Britain once provided. To them it seems like death by a thousand cuts. The European Convention on Human Rights, their last hope of fair treatment, is already under attack from New Labour, while the Conservatives want to duck out of it altogether.

Once again the Home Secretary raises the spectre of "abuse" by asylum seekers. I have been visiting detainees for over 10 years and have only come across two or three at most whose case was not genuine. But I know of many genuine refugees who were disbelieved and deported to further persecution. Others have committed suicide rather than be sent "home". The fact that refugees from Zimbabwe are now being sent back to the "safety" of Mugabe's oppressive regime is scandalous.

The fast-track system is now to be extended, denying appellants the chance to obtain the documents they need from home to support their case. The drastic cuts in legal aid mean that most destitute detainees have no chance to find a lawyer. Not content with the rush to deport desperate people, the plan now is to detain even more - including children - and finally to remove the security of refugee status, leaving refugees in a further limbo for five years. When can we expect politicians to observe our moral obligations to asylum seekers and ignore the distorted propaganda of the tabloids?