Joint Committee on Human Rights press notice no. 25

Session 2006-07, 30 March 2007

JCHR: TREATMENT OF ASYLUM SEEKERS IN UK REACHES "INHUMAN AND DEGRADING" LIMITS

In a report released today, Friday 30 March 2007, the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) says the asylum system is overly complex, poorly administered, and offers inadequate information and advice about the support to which people are entitled, in some cases denying any support whatsoever to people who are desperate and destitute.

The Committee also notes the significant increase in detention of asylum seekers, and expresses serious concerns about the detention of vulnerable people such as children, victims of torture, pregnant women and those with serious health problems.

Andrew Dismore MP, Chairman of the Committee, said:

"Innocent children should never be detained - alternatives must be developed. The system of asylum seeker support is a confusing mess, and the policy of enforced destitution must cease. Asylum seekers as a group do not always get the greatest sympathy from society or the media but what we have seen and heard provides very hard evidence of appalling treatment that no human being should suffer.

"Some of our proposals, which some people might find contentious, are surely just common sense. If an asylum seeker is in the middle of an appeal process which is delayed for reasons outside their control and they are not going to be able to leave for 12 months, they should be able to seek work, at least on a limited basis, to support themselves, rather than having to be dependent on benefits at public expense.

"Health care policy should just be decided on the basis of common humanity: a dying person should not be deported to a country where they will have no palliative care, and pregnant women should have access to care until they leave the country. If we do not treat people who have serious infectious diseases it clearly poses a wider public health risk - this is simply common sense."

Many asylum seekers and refused asylum seekers are vulnerable individuals fleeing torture or persecution, and reliant on protection and support from others. The majority have no right to work.

The Report concludes that in refusing permission for asylum seekers to work and also operating a system of support which results in widespread destitution, the Government's treatment of asylum seekers in a number of cases reaches the human rights threshold of "inhuman and degrading treatment".

/ENDS

[Notes to Editors:

1. Andrew Dismore MP is contactable by pager (07659 592094) for comment or interview.

2. Embargoed advance copies of the report are available to the media from 11am on Wednesday 28 March 2007. Please contact Jessica Bridges-Palmer at the number below.

3. The report is published as the Committee's Tenth Report of Session 2006-07, The Treatment of Asylum Seekers, on Friday 30 March 2007 at 00.01am as House of Lords Paper 81-I, House of Commons Paper 60-I. Oral and written evidence is published on 30 March in a separate volume, House of Lords Paper 81-II, House of Commons Paper 60-II.

The report will be available from The Stationery Office (tel: 0870 600 5522), Parliamentary Hotline Lo-call 0845 7 023474, Email: [email protected], Internet: http://www.tso.co.uk/bookshop, TSO shops, The Parliamentary Bookshop, 12 Bridge Street, London SW1A 2JX (tel 020 7219 3890) and through good booksellers. It will also be on the Committee's website at the address below on the day of publication.

THE MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE ARE:

Mr Andrew Dismore MP (Labour, Hendon) (Chairman)
Lord Fraser of Carmyllie (Conservative)
Mr Douglas Carswell MP (Conservative, Harwich)
Lord Judd (Labour)
Nia Griffith MP (Labour, Llanelli)
Lord Lester of Herne Hill (Liberal Democrat)
Dr Evan Harris MP (Liberal Democrat, Oxford West & Abingdon)
The Earl of Onslow (Conservative)
Mr Richard Shepherd MP (Conservative, Aldridge-Brownhills)
Lord Plant of Highfield (Labour)
Mark Tami MP (Labour, Alyn & Deeside)
Baroness Stern (Cross-Bencher)

Clerks of the Committee: Mr Nick Walker (House of Commons) 020 7219 2797 and Mr Bill Sinton (House of Lords) 020 7219 5358

ENQUIRIES: 020 7219 2797/2467 FAX: 020 7219 8393 E-MAIL: [email protected]

HOMEPAGE: http://www.parliament.uk/jchr

MEDIA INQUIRIES: Ms Jessica Bridges-Palmer: 020 7219 0724