Foreigners risk being abused by UK Border Agency officials

Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission: Stop singling out ethnic minorities
21st April 2009: There is need of building a detention facility for immigrants waiting to be deported from Northern Ireland rather than holding them in police cells, a Human Rights Commission report has recommended.

The report entitled ‘Our Hidden Borders: The UK Border Agency’s Powers of Detention’ by Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission examined the treatment of suspected illegal immigrants.

The report said that the right to liberty and freedom from degrading treatment must be respected when measures like roadside checks are introduced.

Immigrants could be abused at the hands of increasingly powerful UK Border Agency’s officials in Northern Ireland, the report said.

NIHRC Chief Commissioner, Monica McWilliams, stated: “Individuals who are not nationals of the UK are particularly vulnerable to breaches of their human rights. Language barriers and a lack of accessible information on rights can exacerbate these vulnerabilities. When those individuals are, as is current practice, detained by state agencies the need for independent inspection and oversight is crucial, which is why it was extremely important for the Commission to carry out this work.”

Co-author of the report, Dr Nazia Latif, added: “Our findings raise a range of concerns about the way immigration officers engage with individuals and how they arrive at the decision to make a recommendation for detention. We have also raised concern about the lack of consistent practice informing detainees of their right to legal advice.

“We have stressed in the report that there is a need to ensure that all individuals are afforded the same level of protection and that a uniform process, that respects human rights, is applied to all.”

The report recommended that Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson should take powers to address complaints about the immigration service.

“The practice of singling out particular nationalities and people visibly from a minority ethnic background should be ceased immediately,” the report said.

It also recommended that individuals being removed should be informed by the UKBA of the contact details of migrant welfare groups operating in the Republic of Ireland.

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