UK Home Office found in breach of the Human Right of Liberty regarding detention practice of asylum seekers

On International Human Rights Day I want to briefly highlight a Human Right violation that has occurred in the UK for asylum seekers regarding the Right to Liberty ~ Sarah Page, Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Sociology

You might have seen recent press reports in the Guardian and Independent about the Home Office being found guilty of inappropriate detention of asylum seekers by the Supreme Court. 

Inappropriate detention of asylum seekers occurred between 1st January 2014 and 15th March 2017 due to ineffective policy implementation of Dublin III and those detained in this time frame are entitled to compensation. 

Here in the UK we typically use detention or imprisonment when there has been a crime, or the person is a significant security threat to the public, or briefer periods of detention when a case is being investigated.  

In my own research on asylum seekers in Stoke-on-Trent I found that many asylum seekers are in fear of being detained.  Professionals talked to me about how asylum seekers can be detained for administrative reasons, rather than due to them having committed a crime, or being a significant security threat to the public. 

Asylum seekers are typically nervous about complaining because they fear that complaining might impact upon their application to remain in the UK.  However, some brave asylum seekers have spoken out about their detention experiences and you can listen to an account of a woman detained on the BBC website. A locally based asylum seeker also talked about her experience to the Sentinel newspaper and describes detention as “inhumane”. 

Detention can cause significant deterioration of mental and physical well-being.  When you consider that many asylum seekers have mental health issues from the trauma of what led them to flee their country and the journey they have been on to escape.  Others have been victim to trafficking and exploitation.  It is inappropriate to incarcerate such people.    

Academics across the UK have highlighted that Asylum seeker policies in the UK are restrictive and lack compassion.  Despite media portrayal of the UK flooded with asylum seekers we host less than most European counterparts per population head. Those seeking asylum in the UK only get basic needs met, if that.  Often asylum seekers get insufficient resources to live off – significantly less than a UK citizen on benefits.  Such poverty issues raise Public Health concern.  Especially when asylum seekers become destitute and homeless when their applications are rejected, and they are appealing the process.  Professionals that I interviewed inferred that decision-making process and quality in the UK is poor.   

On this International Day of Human Rights I want to highlight the importance of the right to liberty and also the importance of a compassionate response to asylum seekers.  Asylum seeker policy in the UK needs to be reviewed and revised to ensure that Public Health and Human Rights concerns are addressed.

The research that I conducted was in association with students studying on our degree programmes.  I would like to say a thank you to Michael Dean, Sarah Carter, Val Ngock, Jack Whalley, Oliver Turner, Dana Wade and Sarah Johnson for your work on this project and also to Penny Vincent who was a staff member at the University and involved in the inception of the project. Our findings were shared with the Home Office to help inform future changes to policy and practice.  The research undertaken forms part of the Staffordshire University Crime and Society Research Group portfolio. 

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