`Situation likely to worsen’
15th March 2010: The process for removing asylum seekers lacks accountability and ‘will get worse’
The assertion by the lawyers defending human rights, Refugee and Migrant Justice, comes in response to Baroness Nuala O’Loan DBE’s Report to the United Kingdom Border Agency on ‘Outsourcing Abuse’.
The RMJ has asserted lack of accountability highlighted in a new report on deportation practices by the UK Border Agency will only get worse under new Government measures.
Baroness O’Loan’s report highlights a failure to properly investigate claims of mistreatment to asylum seekers and, whilst noting some recent improvements, recommends further changes.
In February, the Government gave an assurance to the House of Lords that claims of abuse were already subject to a ‘rigorous investigative process.’ Over the last few months, the Government has been loosening key controls which allow courts to prevent unlawful removals.
RMJ has asserted that it believes new moves will mean even more people will be removed without being given the required 72 hours notice – making it harder for the courts to prevent unlawful removal.
This comes at a time when the practice of giving unaccompanied children no notice of removal has already been judged unlawful and yet no change in policy has been announced.
Caroline Slocock, chief executive of Refugee and Migrant Justice, says, “Removals are sometimes justified, but they need to be carried out humanely and in accordance with the law.
“Despite Government assurances that poor treatment will be investigated properly in future, it continues to operate and develop new practices which prevent independent scrutiny of their actions by the courts and this is a major concern.
“As recently as December 2009, the UK Border Agency announced that it would increase the categories of asylum seekers who will be given no notice of removal. That prevents them from accessing legal support and getting unsound Home Office decisions overturned by the courts.
“In February, Justice Collins established the existing policy to remove unaccompanied children from the UK, without notice, was unlawful but no change of policy has been announced.
“One of our former clients had his telephone taken from him so he could not contact anyone, was beaten up on arrival at Heathrow and forced on to the plane. The UK Border Agency later argued that due to the publicity of his particular case, he had been deemed ‘disruptive.’
“An unpublished policy meant that they could give ‘disruptive’ clients no notice of removal. RMJ was able later to get a court order granted to return him to the UK, where he has subsequently been granted asylum. Many others may not have been so fortunate.
"The report’s recommendations are welcome but it is shocking that a policy is not already in place for male staff to leave the room during searches of female detainees, and that officers are not already required to justify use of force in respect of necessity, proportionality and legality.
“A recent House of Lords inquiry found 36 occasions where pilots have refused to fly due to deportees’ physical or mental condition in the last two years – yet the UK Border Agency keeps surprisingly few records of such incidents."