Prime Minister announces plans to step up asylum removals - Refugee Council
September 16, 2004

Prime Minister announces plans to step up asylum removals

In response to the announcement, Maeve Sherlock, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:

“There are three worrying trends in the Government’s policy towards asylum seekers. One, treating asylum seekers as if they were criminals. Two, denying a fair hearing to people who have fled torture and persecution. And three, creating the misleading impression that most refugees coming here are abusing the system.

“If people are going to be removed at the end of the asylum process it is only right that they get a fair hearing in the first place. Restricted access to legal advice, poor initial decisions, an inadequate appeals system, and rushing claims through without giving asylum seekers adequate opportunity to present their case, are all contributing to a much increased risk that people will be wrongly returned to face torture or even death.

“What we have to remember is that we are not talking about numbers here but real people – men, women, and children. It is they who pay the price for a decision-making process that keeps getting life and death decisions wrong.

“Imprisoning people when they have committed no crime is totally unacceptable. Detention should only ever be a last resort where there is legally sound evidence that it is necessary.

“Plans to prosecute people for destroying their documents are wholly misguided. As the Prime Minister admits, it is the criminal traffickers that order people to destroy or hand back their documents – asylum seekers are the victims of this practice. Refugees are often entirely dependent on smugglers to help them flee persecution.

“We accept that in order for an asylum system to be both credible and effective, those who are found not to need protection can be removed, but a credible system needs to have at its heart the offer of a safe haven to people fleeing persecution.”

Ends

Further information and links

Writing in The Times newspaper, the Prime Minister stated that “by the end of the year, we want the monthly rate of removals to exceed the number of unfounded applications”.

Read a Home Office press release

The Times online

Read a report on BBCi

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