Your article on the distress and mental harm caused by indefinite periods of detention for asylum-seekers, "Locked up indefinitely..." (14 February), referred to detainees as "prisoners". The paradox is that, were they serving a prison sentence, asylum-seekers would have access to a range of legal, welfare and other support services.
As a former chaplain at Yarl's Wood, I saw the daily struggle detainees faced. The UK Border Agency regards institutions such as Yarl's Wood as removal – not detention – centres, and this sets the tone for their regimes. While some improvements in health and welfare have followed criticism, these alleviate the symptoms of distress and despair that frequently result in depression and self-harm while failing to address the cause: the arbitrary and harmful nature of detention itself.
Millions of pounds have been paid by the Home Office in damages to ex-detainees who should not have been detained, or whose detention has caused them significant harm. Such cases testify to the inherent failings of the current detention system, however, there is no political will to change it: there are no votes for speaking up for so called failed asylum-seekers. Sadly, we can expect more cases of self-harm, hunger strikes and suicide within our detention centres and it will be the most vulnerable detainees who suffer most.
Rev Larry Wright
Thank you, Emily Dugan and Jane Merrick, for raising the terrible injustice of imprisoning immigrants. Under habeas corpus, no one should be imprisoned without legal protection. Yet hundreds of failed asylum-seekers are held indefinitely. Among the most vulnerable people in our society, they have committed no crime. Many do not know their rights or understand our legal system, fear authority after bad experiences in their own countries, and have no one to speak for them. Indefinite imprisonment of these people is cruel and makes me ashamed to be British.
The value of new technology in cracking historical puzzles ("CSI Cairo: How science will solve the mystery of Tutankhamun", 14 February) is clear. But traditional research underpins these techniques. As head of the archaeological team that recently solved the ancient slavery riddle of the pyramids, Dr Zahi Hawass knows his revelation pertaining to King Tut's lineage was possible only given Howard Carter's 1922 archaeological dig.
Lee P Ruddin
Patrick Cockburn's assessment of the latest offensive in Afghanistan makes a refreshing difference from the witterings of reporters embedded with UK and US troops. As he underlines, the latest surge is reminiscent of numerous episodes in the Vietnam War when each offensive was to be the one that would defeat the Vietcong. This never happened, of course, but, as in Afghanistan, many lives were lost in pursuit of the ideological objectives of a few generals and politicians.
Edward VIII was never "crowned", as you mistakenly stated in "Great Lovers" (The New Review, 14 February). He succeeded to the throne when his father, George V, died in January 1936. A coronation is usually held several months after a monarch's accession. However, Edward abdicated in December 1936 and his brother, Albert, succeeded to the throne, reigning as George VI. He was crowned on 12 May 1937, the date originally reserved for Edward's coronation.
The Ministry of Defence is to be applauded for taking the first steps towards privatisation of the RAF and Navy rescue services (Letters, 14 February). For far too long, people, most of them city-dwellers, have been straying off our extensive network of paved roads in order to experience what they perceive to be the thrills of the countryside. Taxpayers then fund the inevitable rescues when they fall over a cliff, get stuck up a mountain or stub their big toe. It is high time these selfish individuals paid for the full cost of their recovery. Privatisation means that day comes ever closer.
John Eoin Douglas
While I agree with Andrew Martin that the BBC's decision to relocate some departments to Salford is a good thing and that we need to get away from the notion that London is the cultural centre of the country, he downplays the considerable contribution to contemporary culture from northern writers and artists. He asks when a novel was last set in modern-day Bury. What about Jon McGregor's If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, set in an unspecified northern town that could be any of Martin's "Bs"? Or Pat Barker's Union Street? And, granted, Coronation Street is not a Beeb product, but its huge following and unique place in media history is proof that we are in no danger of becoming a nation of EastEnders.
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