Tuesday, January 26, 2010 

The VIP treatment.

Here's one of those especially crass Sun articles written with the type of feigned ignorance so prevalent in the tabloids:

ILLEGAL immigrants are getting the VIP treatment when booted out of Britain - with personal security escorts costing almost £500 each.

Yes, you read that right - the VIP treatment. I don't know what VIP means to you, but I somehow doubt that those who considered themselves such would put up for long with what the average failed asylum seeker or illegal immigrant faces prior to their deportation, often provided by the same private security firms. The last report into Colnbrook (PDF) immigration removal centre, ran by Serco (glossy corporate, touchy-feely everything is wonderful page), where many are held prior to their deportation due to its location near to Heathrow, found that it was struggling to cope and that safety was a significant concern.

That though is nothing when compared to the true VIP treatment when those lucky enough to be leaving are taken to the flights to return them to their home country. The reason why "personal security escorts" are used is twofold - firstly because there are few officials and staff within the UK Border Agency who are authorised to use force and as result many first attempts to deport individuals are abandoned because those whose time has come dare to resist - and secondly as many within the UKBA are not prepared to actually see the policies which they implement put into effect.

In a way, you can't blame them - the horror stories from some of the chartered flights are visceral in their intensity. On one of the first chartered flights back to Iraq a detainee smuggled a blade on board and slashed his stomach, while another concussed himself after banging his head repeatedly against a window. Those were probably the ones which weren't restrained, with others either handcuffed or even wearing leg irons. Charter planes aren't always used though - there was the notable case of a British Airways flight to Lagos where the passengers in economy class mutinied after seeing the plight of a shackled detainee who wouldn't stop screaming, with the supposed "ringleader" arrested and charged only to be cleared over a year later of "behaving in a threatening, abusive, insulting or disorderly manner" towards the crew.

Then again, you wonder what the Sun expects. After all, according to them we roll out the red carpet in welcoming immigrants and asylum seekers in the first place, and the commenters on the piece certainly agree. Might as well extend the gesture when we forcibly throw them out as well then, surely? It does though also prove that simply the government can't do anything right - let too many come here in the first place and spends too much when it gets rid of them, regardless of the much higher cost of keeping them detained here before their deportation - why it bothers when there is simply no political benefit in keeping up such brutal but also ineffective policies remains a mystery. Perhaps, just for the Sun, we could think up something that would negate the need to deport them at all; there are after all many lessons which we can learn from history...

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009 

Season's greetings from the UK Border Agency redux.

Martin Edge provides his version of the UK Border Agency's highly compassionate Christmas card:

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Friday, December 11, 2009 

Season's greetings from the UK Border Agency.

Sort of following on from yesterday's post, via OurKingdom and Jamie, this is the UK Border Agency's quite delightful Christmas card:

Nothing about locking up innocent children until their hair falls out, but perhaps that's on the back.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009 

The continuing scandal of child detention.

When Labour's best political boast is now more or less that they won't be as brutal as the Conservatives will, it's well worth remembering how the government treats some of the most vulnerable in society. Not content with having expanded the prison population to such an extent that as soon as a new wing or establishment is built it is almost immediately filled, it also seems hell-bent on continuing with the detention of those whose only crime is to be the children of asylum seekers who have had their application for refugee status rejected.

Not that the government itself has the guts to be personally responsible for their detention. Probably the most notorious detention centre in the country, Yarl's Wood in Bedfordshire, is run by SERCO. We used to have this strange notion that establishments like prisons shouldn't be run with a view to a profit being made, and that surely applies all the more to those where the "guests" have not committed any offence, but going by yesterday's pre-budget report, with the funding for prisons due to be slashed, it's one we're going to have get even more used to. In the last report on Yarl's Wood, the chief inspector of prisons Anne Owers noted (PDF) while Yarl's Wood should seek to improve the "plight of children" who were being held in the centre, they were "ultimately issues" for the UK Border Agency. That would be the same UK Border Agency where bonuses are being paid out, something defended by Phil Woolas, who claimed they were "risking their lives" in what they did.

It's doubtful though that the most recent initiative at Yarl's Wood took place on the orders of the UK Border Agency. The latest Private Eye (1251) reports on the opening of new classrooms for the detained children, which "local bigwigs" had been invited to attended. They were treated to the kind of welcome that royalty might have been, with one happy child detainee prompted to sing "Happy Birthday" to his mother, older prisoners dressed in blue gowns who sang "My Sweet Lord" and were given a complimentary mug and coaster set which was emblazoned with a logo featuring two smiling parents, two happy children and the legend "compassion, commitment and respect for all". While few dispute that the centre has improved significantly since SERCO took over the contract from Group 4, the prisons inspectorate's last report still criticised the healthcare available, the lack of activities provided and most of all the insufficient provision for children, one wonders if SERCO would do better to focus on the motif inscribed on the cups rather than just presenting it when the influential come to visit.

SERCO can't however be blamed for children being detained in the first place. Report after report and expert after expert has now condemned the continuing snatching of families at dawn and months of waiting in what are very slightly more friendly prisons. The children's commissioner Sir Al Aynsley-Green called for the "inhumane practice to end" a few months back; the home affairs select committee found that no one was able to give an exact figure on the number of children held in a year, while an overview of their welfare was also not available; and most damningly, the journal Child Abuse and Neglect, in a study which featured 24 children from Yarl's Wood itself (PDF), found, unsurprisingly, that some were so stressed they had regressed to bedwetting and soiling during the day. Anxiety and depression had developed or re-developed in others, as had post-traumatic stress disorder, while most worryingly sexualised behaviour had come to the fore in others. The Royal Colleges of General Practitioners, Paediatrics and Child Health, and Psychiatrists, and the UK Faculty of Public Health are now all calling for the practice to end.

The case of Child M is an extreme one, but illustrates the system at its very worst. An 9-year-old from Iran, he was first imprisoned along with the rest of his family in the summer of 2008, being held for 52 days before being released. During his incarceration he had recurring nightmares, suffered from ringworm and his hair started to fall out. His family was detained again on the 17th of November, spending another three weeks in Yarl's Wood under the threat of imminent deportation, with Child M again suffering from a deterioration in his mental health, before finally being released again on Tuesday. It's impossible to know whether this again is just a temporary reprieve, but for Child M to undergo such a traumatic experience at the hands of the state twice, when such detention is hardly ever truly necessary (asylum seekers generally don't abscond, especially those with families) is unforgivable. No one it seems however is prepared to stand up for children who have committed no crime; as Mike Power suggested on Chicken Yogurt's post on Child M back in March, it seems to take a place where "socialism is entrenched" like Haringey for anyone other than the usual suspects to care.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009 

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

It's reassuring to know that even if everything else is falling apart, the government can still be relied upon to be treating asylum seekers like shit. The Graun discovers that those who have deported back to the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been taken almost direct from the flights into the custody of the general directorate of intelligence and special services, where at least two "failed" asylum seekers were viciously tortured. Despite the Home Office's operational guidance, which admits that those detained in the country are highly likely to be mistreated, while the Foreign Office advises against all but essential travel to the country because of the political situation, the Court of Appeal ruled back in December that those who claim asylum in this country are not risking persecution back in the Congo purely because they have done that. This latest evidence rather undermines that judgement. Not that anyone far beyond the pages of the Independent or Guardian will care - instead they'll be focusing on the tabloid headlines of last week which while acknowledging the fall in immigration from the EU ascension countries, noted that asylum applications were rising again.

Somewhat connected is that the mighty Tim Ireland has rather outdone the BNP's "Billy Brit" horror show by purchasing the exact same puppet (which happens to be American) and noting that some "white" heroes aren't all that they seem:

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Monday, April 27, 2009 

Immigration and the Gurkhas.

Causes don't come much more righteous than the campaign for retired Gurkhas to be allowed to settle in this country. Following Friday's derisory if not downright insulting decision from the Home Office that would at most allow only 100 to emigrate here, the Sun and doubtless other papers are preparing campaigns, or in the Sun's case, a rather inaptly named "crusade" for their right to live here. Even the British National Party, which only last week talked of how other immigrants could never be considered British because they are of "foreign stock", supports their cause.

As could have been expected, the Gurkhas and their rights are being compared unfavourably with those who have also settled here in recent years who have not been welcomed with such open arms. The Sun lists, variously, those who slip in here to sponge off the taxpayer (mostly a myth), students granted visas to bogus colleges, the Afghan hijackers, and those who smuggle themselves in from France. The Sun, it should be noted, seems to have been rather kinder to the eastern Europeans who have entered the country to work since 2004 than the other tabloids, mainly perhaps due to it directly appealing to them in specially published papers. Nonetheless, no one could confuse the Sun with a paper that supports fully open borders, like say, the Guardian or the Independent.

The problem with the emphasis on the Gurkhas is that it means even less attention for those already here that are suffering under the vagaries of our asylum and immigration system. Almost everyone agrees that not allowing those who are awaiting the decision over their status, as well as those who are designated to be "failed" asylum seekers to work is a ridiculous situation which impoverishes all involved while contributing to the "black" economy and so robs the exchequer of tax revenue. Then there's today's little short of horrifying, if not in the least bit surprising report from the children's commissioner regarding the detention of children at Yarl's Wood (PDF). Mark Easton provides a summary:

What sort of country sends a dozen uniformed officers to haul innocent sleeping children out of their beds; gives them just a few minutes to pack what belongings they can grab; pushes them into stinking caged vans; drives them for hours while refusing them the chance to go to the lavatory so that they wet themselves and locks them up sometimes for weeks or months without the prospect of release and without adequate health services?

It highlights how we have completely different attitudes when it comes to outsiders. Even though we have one of the highest child incarceration rates in Europe, we would still regard the locking up of those charged with or convicted of no crime as being abhorrent. Yet this does not stop us from doing it to those whom, in the vast majority of cases, were genuinely fleeing oppression and then find their families experiencing much the same in a so-called civilised country. Undoubtedly, some are out to take advantage of our hospitality, and some are simply economic migrants claiming asylum, but even then their children are not complicit in or responsible for their actions. There has to be an alternative.

To get some sense of perspective, the number of Gurkhas that might take advantage of the full right to settle here is estimated at around 36,000. The Sun uses the word "just" before that number. The number that sought asylum here in 2007, by comparison, was 23,430. You can't imagine for a moment any tabloid newspaper using "just" before reporting that figure. Indeed, the hysteria at the beginning of the decade, when asylum applications hit a high of over 100,000 a year was such that the clampdowns which are now in effect were introduced, with targets for how many "failed" asylum seekers would be deported each year the main innovation. Such targets make no allowance for the personal situations of those who are abitrarily decided to be the next to go, including the likes of Ama Sumani, who was sent back to Ghana regardless of the fact she could not receive treatment for her cancer there. She was dead within two months. The Lancet called it "atrocious barbarism", and it's hard to disagree. Not treating with respect those who fought for this country might be described similarly, but surely we also owe a debt to those who come here seeking sanctuary to at least treat them with more than an ounce of humanity.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008 

Giving false hope.

Whenever a politician says that they want to have a debate, they don't really mean a debate in the terms that us mere mortals interpret it, as in an informed exchange of views possibly leading to changing of opinions. They mean a debate where they can control the flow of information, where they're fairly certain of what the outcome of the debate will be, and where they themselves can then close down the debate should it get out of hand.

When Phil Woolas then says that he wants a "mature debate" on immigration he means that he wants to get in first, set the tone for where the debate is going to go and also knows already what the policy outcome of said mature debate is going to be. A sure-fire way to get a mature debate going is by poisoning the well. According to Woolas, the lawyers and charities working on behalf of asylum seekers, for example, are not doing so out of compassion, the goodness of their hearts or because no one else will, but because they're an industry. By being an industry, they are in actual fact playing the system, giving false hope and causing more harm than good. Similarly, at least half of those that come to this country and claim asylum are not fleeing persecution, but are instead just pretending to be, play-acting as having suffered in order to be admitted when they are nothing more than simple economic migrants. Woolas also said that an asylum seeker than had succeeded in staying here after going through six layers of appeal "had no right to be in this country but I'm sure there is an industry out there [with] a vested interest."

How right he is. There are companies and individuals out there that have a vested interest in the asylum process. One such is Kalyx (they "care for immigration detainees with compassion and understanding"), a business with a social purpose, that was ranked as the worst performer of ten in an investigation into racism in detention centres, where detainees described "banter and taunting as ... part of the natural relationship between a detainee and custody officer".

Similarly, despite the best efforts of this industry and its attempts at undermining the law, it failed in managing to stop Ama Sumani from being deported back to Ghana, despite the fact that she could not receive treatment there for her cancer. She survived for just two months, and died before the £70,000 that her supporters managed to raise for her could be sent to her. The Lancet called it "atrocious barbarism". It took the intervention of the former ambassador to Uzbekistan to potentially save the life of Jahongir Sidikov, an opposition activist that faced almost certain torture and possible death if sent back, as he very nearly was.

We can instead leave the real undermining of the law to the politicians themselves. In June Jacqui Smith declared that homosexuals could be deported back to Iran as long as they were "discreet". Earlier in the year it decided that up to 1,400 Iraqis could be sent back to their home country as "ordinary individual Iraqi citizens were not at serious risk from indiscriminate violence". 1,000 Zimbabweans were also destined to be sent back to enjoy the rule of Robert Mugabe, where a coalition government is still yet to be sworn in. Additionally, last year the Joint Committee on Human Rights issued a report which said the government was using the policy of "destitution" deliberately against asylum seekers in order to force them out, and generally make things as unpleasant as possible. An independent review of the asylum system found that it was "marred by inhumanity in its treatment of the vulnerable" and that it was "denying sanctuary to those entitled to it".

It's been apparent from the beginning that Woolas was appointed immigration minister in order to get up the arses of the likes of the Sun and the Mail and stay there. At a recent CBI conference Woolas argued that Sun readers had an "intelligent" grasp of the immigration debate, who understood "complex issues better than so-called experts". Woolas' comments on asylum seekers' lawyers are today being approvingly run alongside the "bogus asylum seekers" phraseology which has been banned by the PCC for being a contradiction in terms.

On tackling the BNP, Woolas says that "[I]n a democracy you've got to beat them, and you don't beat them by pandering to them. You beat them by thumping them politically in the face." What's apparent is that Woolas intends to beat them by stealing their very rhetoric, thumping them politically in the face by taking their lies and distortions and presenting it as fact in order to influence a debate. This is the very worst way to try to tackle the grievances which the likes of the BNP give rise to. By stealing their rhetoric you give the impression that you're going to implement their policies; thankfully, even the likes of Woolas have no intention of doing that, and they can't on asylum seekers in any case because of our international obligations. This though only leads to the likes of the Sun building a minister up to them bring them crashing down harder than they ever thought possible when their words don't turn into actions. John Reid experienced this: he talked tough, told them exactly what he was going to do only to predictably fail, with the result being his appearance on the paper's front page minus a brain.

This would be fine if it didn't have implications on the ground. But it does. Rhetoric against asylum seekers isn't just used against asylum seekers, it's used against immigrants as a whole, especially those who have recently moved into communities and are as a result instantly noticeable. By suggesting that asylum seekers' lawyers and charitable organisations play the system when they are in fact only trying to do the best they can, and when the government itself has been so repeatedly criticised for its treatment of them is not just unpleasant, it is downright risible. The false hope for many who seek refuge here is that they will be treated with respect, that they will be welcomed into a society which puts the treatment of the vulnerable as amongst the very top of its priorities. Instead they often find themselves locked up, racially abused, and used to score political points in the most base manner. Phil Woolas ought to be absolutely ashamed of himself.

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Monday, June 23, 2008 

We are ruled over by vermin pt. 94.

Following the last post, sometimes it would be nice if it didn't require the accusation of racism for someone to either be fired or lose their job. According to Jacqui Smith, as long as homosexuals in Iran are discreet, there isn't a "real risk of discovery of, or adverse action against [them]," hence why it's perfectly reasonable to deport those seeking refuge from there back.

It's easy to reminisce and wear rose-tinted spectacles over the Labour party's past, how it was the home of Bevan and Attlee, and even now of those who have since blotted their copy books, such as Peter Hain and Harriet Harman, with their campaigning pasts, but when you compare such past alumni to the utter dregs we're currently dealing with, whether it be Smith, whose only previous job was a teacher, or the likes of Andy Burnham and James Purnell, who don't seem to have any past at all prior to their becoming researchers or employed by other MPs, it's hard not to come across all lachrymose over a party that is now being so unutterably betrayed by its current leaders.

The sheer wrongness of Smith's comment, backed up or not by the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal, tells you much about the party's current trajectory. As long as you don't bring any attention to yourself, you know, such as dressing up similarly to Big Gay Al, you'll be fine in Tehran. Don't let the punishments for being caught give you the wrong impression that homosexuality in Iran is frowned up: those 100 lashes for the rubbing of the "thighs and buttocks" are simply the state joining in the fun. After all, who are we to decide where the pleasure ends and the pain begins? As for the death penalty, which is the ultimate sentence for homosexuality, it's not employed very often, so don't worry your pretty little heads about it. We've more important things to worry about, like the next set of figures detailing how many asylum claims were made and how many of those whose claims failed were deported. The Sun and the Daily Mail get rather sniffy if the figures don't fall enough for their liking.

Similarly, it doesn't seem to matter that Smith's comments rather undermine the whole point of the asylum system: that it provides sanctuary for those who do raise their heads above the parapet in nations bordering on totalitarianism, in an attempt to not just improve standards for themselves but for their nation and people as a whole, but who might eventually be forced to leave or face death, imprisonment and torture themselves. You could imagine the outrage if an MDC activist fleeing Zimbabwe now after having his or her family killed was then subsequently told on reaching Britain that they'd have been perfectly all right as long if they'd been discreet in the first place, or would be as long as they didn't bring any attention to themselves upon their return. It's almost reminiscent of the tale of the German communists recounted in Antony Beevor's Berlin who proudly showed their Soviet liberators their party cards which they'd kept hidden since the darkness descended in 1933; that the Ivans then proceeded to rape their wives and daughters despite this might well have made them think that they should have been more discreet also.

New Labour's hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil approach is also remarkably similar to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's own, having famously commented that there are no gay people in Iran. Jacqui Smith would like that too; then they wouldn't come over here demanding sanctuary in the first place. I, like some others, am starting to count the days until this shower of shits are finally thrown out of office. I might then have to start numbering the days until the shower of possibly even worse shits in the Conservatives are subject to the same treatment, but at least the Labour party in the meantime might finally be forced to sort itself out.

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Friday, May 16, 2008 

Scum-watch: Breathtaking chutzpah over an Afghan hijacker.

How times change.

Two years ago, the Sun was outraged over the decision that the 10 Afghani men who felt their only way to escape the hell of life under the Taliban was to hijack a plane should be given leave to remain in this country. Their front page was one of the most mendacious of recent times, implying that the men who had escaped from a tyranny which the Sun supported the subsequent overthrow of were interested only in sponging off the state and having everything handed to them.

It therefore takes an amazing amount of chutzpah for the Sun to today splash on one of the biggest non-stories it's ever put on its front page. Having previously smeared the men as wanting to not work when one of their main reasons for wanting to be given leave to remain was so that they could repay their debt, it now considers it a huge news story that, err, one of the men has a job. Or rather, that he works for a company which has a contract to clean a British Airways training centre, which means he has a pass to, in the Sun's parlance, "secure areas".

If anyone can tell what the point of the Sun's anguish is, it would be nice to be informed. It can't seriously be suggesting that Nazamuddin Mohammidy is likely to repeat his previous offence, or that he's any sort of extremist when he escaped from the most fundamentalist Islamic government of modern times. No, this seems to be purely an exercise in trying to make the biggest possible mountain of the slightest molehill. The only reason the Sun knows about Mohammidy's current employment is because he was stopped by police on suspicion of being an unlicensed taxi driver, and when checking out he was who he said he was, discovered that he was in breach of bail after being accused of assaulting his landlord. While that suggests he's not necessarily an angel, if that wasn't already manifest, it also means that he's not housed by the state either, another of the Scum's smear tactics first time round.

Rather than this being about Mohammidy, this seems to be more about asylum seekers and "human rights law" in general than any real concern about his working at Heathrow. That can be the only conclusion reached when the paper quotes "Sir" Andrew Green claiming that this proves the asylum system is being "abused", something which is not in the slightest bit proved by this case. We don't know the circumstances behind his alleged assault on his landlord, but it could quite easily have been a dispute which got out of hand. Apart from that, he's doing exactly what the government and Sun demands both asylum seekers and immigrants do: work and live off their own steam. The only abuse here is that the Sun seems to think it's in the public interest to hound those who somehow cross them or who might incredibly tenuously be linked to extremism. This was the case with its recent stalking of Abdul Maneem Patel, who was called "evil" and a "terrorist" after being released early from a six-month sentence for holding an explosives manual, found in a sealed box under his bed, for an older associate of his father.

It can all be so different if you can conceivably be of commercial benefit to the Sun. I noted recently a surprisingly positive leader on Polish immigrants, which would never have appeared in any other of the tabloids. One of the reasons for the softening of their stance might just be because they're considering producing one-off Polish-language versions to coincide with Euro 2008, where Poland rather than England will be participating. Now just what would the gor blimey likes of Jon Gaunt think about that?

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Friday, April 18, 2008 

Scum-watch: Septic isle betrays our heroes!

Not to come over all self-referential, but I can't help but be delighted by the headline the Sun's chosen for gor blimey merchant Jon Gaunt's latest column:

More than happy to oblige.

While we're here, we might as well deal with this blatant lie from Gaunt:

Do you remember when the illegals and the bogus asylum seekers set fire to their modern detention centres because Sky TV was turned off? Yes, you do.

But do you hear the liberty campaigners of this world moaning when our troops live in rat-infested barracks? Of course you don’t.

Yes, I do indeed remember when those "illegals and bogus asylum seekers" rioted when Sky was turned off; not because they were suddenly being deprived of Murdoch's wonderful programming, but because the report they were watching just happened to be on the conditions in, err, their detention centre. Anne Owers' report on the Harmondsworth detention centre found that it was:

being run with a regime that is as strict as any high security prison, with those facing deportation victimised by staff and some strip-searched and temporarily locked in solitary confinement, according to the chief inspector of prisons.

Anne Owers says that the privately-run removal centre, which holds 500 men facing deportation at any one time, has slipped into "a culture wholly at odds with its stated purpose" since a riot took place in 2004.

The prison inspection team says it had serious concerns over the way Harmondsworth was run by United Kingdom Detention Service, with 44% of detainees reporting they had been victimised by staff and 60% saying they felt unsafe in the centre.

More than 2,000 failed asylum seekers and illegal migrants pass through Harmondsworth each year and those interviewed by the prison inspectors described the custody officers as "aggressive", "intimidating", "rude" and "unhelpful", especially towards those who could not speak English.

The chief inspector says the centre is run "with a disproportionate emphasis on security" with a high use of force and with rules and systems that "would have been considered over-controlling in a prison, let alone a removal centre".

So forgive this liberty campaigner if he doesn't cry crocodile tears for the plight of our brave heroes who aren't being held against their will or treated in anywhere near such a fashion as those at Harmondsworth were.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008 

Quote of the decade revisited.

'We are pleased that the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal has agreed with our view and found that conditions in Iraq are such that an ordinary individual Iraqi civilian is not at serious risk from indiscriminate violence,' a spokesman for the Home Office said.

More than 70 people have been killed in blasts at three cities in Iraq, in one of the deadliest days there for weeks.

At least 53 died and another 90 were injured when explosives packed in a bus detonated outside a restaurant near a court in Baquba, north of the capital.

And 13 more were killed in a suicide bombing at a kebab restaurant where policemen were eating in Ramadi, which had seen a sharp decline in violence.

Three people were also killed in Mosul in the north, and another in Baghdad.

This isn't to mention the at least 28 that were killed yesterday. I toyed with the idea on Saturday when I posted just the quote of adding that if the Home Office was so certain of how safe Iraq is for the average civilian, perhaps Jacqui Smith would be brave enough to go for her kebab run not on the streets of Peckham, but the sectarian ghettoes of Baghdad. My guesstimate of how long she'd last has now been accordingly shortened.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008 

Quote of the decade.

'We are pleased that the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal has agreed with our view and found that conditions in Iraq are such that an ordinary individual Iraqi civilian is not at serious risk from indiscriminate violence,' a spokesman for the Home Office said.

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Scum-watch: Our interpretation of the ECHR is selective.

As predicted yesterday:

We have grave misgivings, of course, about the European Convention on Human Rights. All too often it leads to putting the rights of terrorists ahead of those of the people of Britain.

The Sun is of course right. Only those truly deserving should be protected by the ECHR: soldiers, police officers, tabloid journalists, foreign media chief executives, etc.

Those clearly not deserving are asylum seekers. How dare they demand treatment on OUR national health service?

ANOTHER High Court decision yesterday is sure to raise the nation’s blood pressure.

A judge decided that 11,000 failed asylum seekers are entitled to free treatment on the National Health.

That’s despite the average waiting list for operations being on the rise. And despite the NHS being under strain with dirty wards and some old folk being underfed by nurses run off their feet.

Those who refuse to go to their home country after being refused asylum here should go somewhere else instead . . .

To the back of the NHS queue.

Typically, the Sun has wilfully misreported the actual ruling. It doesn't just affect failed asylum seekers; it affects all asylum seekers, including those who have been refused refugee status but have no safe passage home so cannot be deported. There's this completely not backed up by evidence statement too:

Many asylum-seekers enter Britain penniless as “health tourists” seeking costly HIV and Aids treatment.

And the natural comment from the Tory front flat tax backing "Taxpayers'" Alliance too:

Mark Wallace, of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “We can’t pay for everyone who turns up on our doorstep.”

We're not you bumptious ignoramus, just for those who have not been refused permission to stay, and those who can't be returned in any case, which amounts to the 11,000 being quoted. How many of those will actually be seriously ill and require costly treatment will be a far smaller number. The greatest shame of this is that it still wouldn't have saved Ama Sumani.

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Friday, March 28, 2008 

Marred by inhumanity.

Again, you probably didn't notice, but yesterday saw the release of a report far more important than Tanya Byron's. The Independent Asylum Commission reviewed the system (PDF), and you probably won't be surprised to learn that it concluded:

Key Conclusions
1. The Commission has found almost universal acceptance of the principle that there must be an asylum system, and that it must be applied fairly, firmly and humanely. These criteria must be fulfilled for the UK system to be ‘fit for purpose’.
2. The Commission has found that the UK asylum system is improved and improving, but is not yet fit for purpose. The system still denies sanctuary to some who genuinely need it and ought to be entitled to it; is not firm enough in returning those whose claims are refused; and is marred by inhumanity in its treatment of the vulnerable.

Luckily, that means that there's someone in it for everyone. The Mail then opens its report with these first two paragraphs:

Public confidence in the asylum system is being eroded by the Home Office's poor performance in deporting failed applicants, a highly-critical report warns today.

The 18-month study by an independent panel also claims the system is failing to deal "firmly" enough with bogus applicants or to give real refugees the protection they badly need.

Throughout the article it's at pains to point out that it's the work of bleeding heart liberal left scum:

The commission is a think-tank of lawyers, clerics, liberal campaigners and experts.

The Independent Asylum Commission said its investigation would take account of a variety of viewpoints.

But critics were uneasy that it was influenced by charities and campaign groups involved with asylum issues, tilting the balance against more rigorous rules.

The body, set up by the Citizen Organising Foundation, which promotes community activism by training local leaders in campaigning techniques, is led by 12 commissioners, many of whom are associated with liberal causes.

They include Katie Ghose, a lawyer and director of the Institute for Human Rights pressure group.

Another is Zrinka Bralo, a journalist from Bosnia, who is executive director of the Migrant and Refugee Communities Forum in West London.

Also on the board is Professor Nicholas Sagovsky, canon theologian at Westminster Abbey, who has called for the poorest in society to be exempt from fines and debts, and Dr Silvia Casale, a prison reformer, criminologist and member of the United Nations sub-committee on prevention of torture.

Others include Lord David Ramsbotham, a former chief inspector of prisons and panel cochairman Ifath Nawaz, president of the Association of Muslim Lawyers, who has claimed tougher counter-terrorism laws fuel extremism.

Of course, it doesn't say who these "critics" are exactly; probably because it'd have to list the MigrationWatch head himself, who doesn't seem to have bothered reading the report or even reading its conclusions before commenting, which makes clear that there's a culture of disbelief towards asylum seekers and their claims. He pops up in the Times' report as well with this comment:

“Despite its official-sounding title, this is a private initiative by a number of charities involved in asylum issues,” he said. “If you set foot in Britain and say the word ’asylum’ you have an 80 per cent chance of staying, more often than not illegally. No wonder they are still queuing up in Calais.”

Which appears to be the general attitude towards the report. The comments on the Times, Express and Mail articles are all united in their condemnation of asylum seekers in general. This one perhaps sums them all up:

This is a joke - if the UK were inhumane, it would not be such a magnet.

- Ian Millard, Exeter UK

Sigh. The Telegraph and Sun don't seem to have reported on it at all, or at least I was unable to find an article on it on either of their sites. The Express and Mirror entries seem to be directly from the wire services.

It's impossible not to agree with Matthew Norman in the Independent, the only newspaper which has consistently campaigned about the inhumanity currently inherent in the system, something dismissed by the Border and Immigration Agency's Lin Homer with the following:

The claims made in this report are not based on any thorough knowledge. I totally refute any suggestion that we treat asylum applicants without care and compassion.

110 pages worth of report and the person in overall responsibility says it's not based on any thorough knowledge. Could it possibly be that it's in fact your claims that are not based on any thorough knowledge, Ms Homer? In fact, would it be going too far to call you a fucking ignorant liar?

As Norman concludes:

What we of the liberal centre-left have done is join Brown, Miliband and all those who so absolutely fail to represent our beliefs in allowing ourselves to be brow-beaten into silent, sullen acquiescence by the unrelenting right-wing propaganda of recent decades. We glow in Sarkozy's facetious praise when we should shriek in rage about what a nasty, brutal, mean-spirited country our spineless apathy has helped create, and this report on the systematic maltreatment of asylum-seekers shames and diminishes us all.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008 

We are ruled over by vermin part two.

Ama Sumani, the woman deported back to Ghana despite the fact she could not receive treatment there for her cancer, has died. She lasted just two months, and her death came just as supporters had managed to raise £70,000 for her hospital fees to be covered.

The Lancet called it "atrocious barbarism". For a government that has so much blood on its hands, doubtless the death of one woman as a direct result of their actions will not make them lose much sleep. Perhaps even in the most sickening way, it might even encourage to them go ahead with their planned deportation or destitution orders for 1,400 Iraqis and 1,000 Zimbabwean asylum seekers. After all, what's one death when that will undoubtedly deliver a far higher number? Stalin never said it better that one death is a tragedy, but a million is a statistic. The supreme leader and those around him seem to agree.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008 

We are ruled over by vermin.

I don't think the title is too hyperbolic in line with this latest despatch from our glorious home secretary:

More than 1,400 rejected Iraqi asylum seekers are to be told they must go home or face destitution in Britain as the government considers Iraq safe enough to return them, according to leaked Home Office correspondence seen by the Guardian.

The Iraqis involved are to be told that unless they sign up for a voluntary return programme to Iraq within three weeks, they face being made homeless and losing state support. They will also be asked to sign a waiver agreeing the government will take no responsibility for what happens to them or their families once they return to Iraqi territory.

Let me just try and get this straight. We have had a major part in creating the current "situation" in Iraq, a situation which has left at least 150,000 dead, resulted in 4,000,000 refugees, and is still killing untold numbers every week in bombings, assassination attempts and sectarian warfare, a security situation which means that our troops continue to remain in Iraq just in case they're needed and also to protect American convoys travelling to Baghdad, with the Foreign Office advising against all travel to Iraq except the Kurdish autonomous area, an area recently invaded by Turkish troops fighting the PKK guerillas, with Mosul increasingly being a major area of conflict between the salafist jihadists and the American forces/Iraqi National Guard, and the very ministers that voted for this war are now going to send up to 1,600 individuals back to a country in a state of war, a war which we started, a war which our own head of the armed forces said we were only exacerbating by our continued presence?

Jesus wept.

We still haven't even provided the support and refuge we promised to the Iraqi employees and translators that served our troops and are now increasingly threatened by militias which are delighting in trying to find them and kill them for their "treachery". What hope do those left behind, apparently forgotten but given fine words by those in Westminster now have that we're apparently to send these "failed" asylum seekers back to their very possible deaths unless they take the option of destitution instead? None of this though seems to matter to the heartless individuals that took this decision, concerned only with providing ministers with figures showing that asylum claims are going down and that deportations are going up, all in order to appease the screaming tabloids when can never be bought off.

Politicians worry about the apathy and cynicism of the electorate. When those self-same politicians take such apathetic, cynical decisions that put lives on the line, can they really have any objection when they're dismissed as all the same and all only in it for themselves?

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Friday, January 25, 2008 

Jahongir Sidikov granted asylum.

A rare piece of wonderful news, via Craig Murray:

I can't really afford it, but I have just bought and opened a bottle of the best bubbly I can find in Shepherds Bush. Jahongir Sidikov has phoned me to say that the Home Office has just granted him asylum. You will recall that Jahongir had to physically resist deportation from Harmondsworth Detention Centre to certain torture and near certain death in Uzbekistan.

Jahongir has no doubt, and nor do I, that the actions of readers of this blog were crucial in preventing this appalling proposed deportation. Special thanks go to the MPs you activated. Several deserve thanks, but Bob Marshall Andrews deserves a really special mention.

It is not yet clear whether the Home Office now accept as a matter of policy that it is not possible to deport dissidents into the hands of the evil Uzbek regime. That is a point you might wish to take up with your MPs.

But for now, thank you and bloody well done. I am going to get rat-arsed.

Even this government, which at times seems impervious to reason, can be forced into seeing sense on occasion.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007 

165,000 asylum seekers sitting on the wall...

There's nothing quite like some humbug at Christmas. Both the Daily Mail and the Express today serve up some healthy servings of finest apoplexy, garnished with lashings of outrage sauce. It could only be both papers leading on how "165,000" asylum seekers are going to get an "amnesty".

See, that's two layers of bullshit just contained in the front page Mail headline. Before getting fully into it, let's have a look at James Slack's article in finer detail. (Those who read FCC probably find that name familiar: he writes most of the Mail's articles on immigration, and tends to pepper them with distortions.)

As many as 165,000 asylum seekers are to be granted an "amnesty" to live in Britain, it was revealed.

The vast bulk of the migrants are failed refugees whose files were left lying in boxes by bungling Home Office staff.

They have now been living here so long that officials have ruled that it would be a breach of their human rights to kick them out.

As said, we'll get to the 165,000 figure in a minute. Notice already that "the human rights" bogeyman has been brought up. As usual, this has very little to do with the Human Rights Act. Let's turn to the Grauniad for a report not laced with the usual dog-whistles:

More than 19,000 asylum seekers, some of whose cases date back more than 10 years, have finally been told they can stay in the country, the Home Office said last night.

They are among the first tranche of 52,000 cases that have been looked at as part of a Home Office "legacy" drive to clear a backlog of between 400,000 and 450,000 files.

Ah, so the actual figure at the moment is 19,000. It takes three sentences and 66 words before the Mail actually gets to reporting what has happened so far rather than what might happen in the future, whereas the Grauniad article gets straight to the point. Back to the Mail:

Ministers admitted that the first 19,000 have already been granted leave to remain under what the Tories described as a "stealth amnesty".

All will now be free to bring their relatives to Britain - and claim the full range of benefits.

As the Guardian article goes on, all those now given leave to remain, that's leave to remain, not British citizenship, have found themselves in limbo, in some cases for as long as 13 years because of Home Office cock-ups involving the losing of files, files that were found following the foreign prisoner scandal last year. As Polly Toynbee writes, "failed" asylum seekers are given hardly any benefits whatsoever - no housing, no access to schools and if the government has its way, no access to GPs. Most are handed £35 worth of vouchers that can only be spent at one store, with no change given, once a week. This Shelter page outlines the support that failed asylum seekers can claim, and the reality is if you're able-bodied and have no family that you'll receive almost nothing.

It's therefore a nonsense that this is any sort of amnesty. If it was, then all those who have been in limbo for however many years thanks to the original losing or forgetting of their files would have given blanket leave to remain. On the contrary, of the 52,000 of the files processed so far, 33,000 have either resulted in the deportation of the original applicant or have been found to be duplicates or riddled with mistakes. It takes 414 words before the Mail gets to admitting this.

How then has the Mail reached this magic number of 165,000? It's taken the percentage so far granted leave to remain from the initial cleared backlog and applied it to the most pessimistic estimate of how many files there are to work through. This is a ridiculous way to predict the numbers likely to allowed to stay: all it does create a handy figure for those opposed to asylum in the first place to bandy about which creates a completely false impression of the current scale of asylum, numbers of which have been dropping now for years, with the government getting ever harsher and more punitive, leading to genuine refugees like Jahongir Sidikov being refused permission to stay. This latest fiasco will do nothing to help the situation. Even if 165,000 were given leave to remain, that's still around 35,000 less than those traveling here every year from the A8 EU ascension states, and also a similar number less than those emigrating every year (PDF).

As it is, commentators like the ubiquitous "Sir" Andrew Green have no idea how many of those in these files have been refused asylum and how many were lost inside the system - seeing as 16,000 have been deported, that would suggest those were the ones already refused, with the others likely to have either been lost or been inside the system so long that it would be unfair and perverse to deport them now granted leave to remain. The cost of deporting them is astronomical, despite all the demands for them to be frog-marched on to planes, as if it was that easy. Far better that they become taxpayers and contribute to the actual economy rather than the hidden one. Claiming that they're now free to bring their families here is also wholly disingenuous: those that didn't in the first place either tend to not have any or were the only ones threatened. Believe it or not, those already settled aren't likely to up sticks just because a relative has finally been officially recognised. Also, as the number of illegal immigrants working in the security industry has showed, there's a shadow economy where cash is in hand and anything goes, while also making clear that the vast majority of migrants tend not to be "spongers". The policy ought to be to regularise them and reimburse the taxpayer rather than spending yet more money deporting them.

Slack and the Mail though have identified the real culprit:

The major reason why so many of the claims will be approved is the Human Rights Act.

Those who have been in the country for many years can claim it is now their home and they no longer have links to their homeland.

The legislation, passed by Labour, also prevents the removal of asylum seekers to countries where they could face torture or persecution, which is likely to apply to thousands of cases in the backlog.

A Home Office document on how the scheme - known as the Legacy Exercise by the department - will operate says "each case will be evaluated on its individual merits, with an assessment of any human rights factors that may be relevant".

Of course the Home Office document says that - just as every government department now has to take into consideration the HRA. The Mail is referring to the considerations that have to be taken under Article 8 - the right to respect for private and family life. This doesn't affect those that have no dependents or who are on their own, which already rules out plenty of single asylum seekers. As for the protection against torture or persecution, this doesn't seem to both worth the paper it's written on when deportations to countries such as Uzbekistan, the Congo, Sudan and Iraq are going on. In any case, the government would have had to taken both factors into consideration prior to the HRA as they are in the European Convention of Human Rights, which I've got tired of saying is what the HRA is based on. All the HRA has done is brought it into British law, whereas those previously had to go to Strasbourg to get their appeal heard. As ever, the HRA becomes the handy whipping boy.

Also, to clear up one of the misconceptions prevalent in the Mail's comments, those being allowed to stay are not being given British citizenship and so cannot vote until they apply, for which you now have to jump through numerous numbers of hoops in order to obtain. It, amazingly, isn't all a conspiracy designed to keep Labour forever in power on the back of immigrant and asylum seeker votes.

Indicative of the comments, with one or two slight exceptions, is this:

Isn't it against OUR human rights to have people in this country using our services when they have not paid for them? Isn't it against OUR human rights for OUR children to be in classes with pupils who cannot speak English, so the teacher’s time is wasted by these incomers? Isn't it against OUR human rights that immigrants get housing which is badly needed by English couples? Isn't it against OUR human rights that our Island is now so crowded with people who neither care nor want to be part of our country, yet want all the benefits? I could go on and on but what's the point. This government doesn't care about OUR human rights.

- Jan, London,England

Where on earth do you even start?

The reality on the ground is that there are two choices: either we continue to try to deport all those who are failed asylum seekers and/or illegal immigrants, the numbers of which could be anything up to around 600,000 or more, which has huge costs and which at the current rate will take decades, or we can implement the kind of selective policy that has been introduced here. An actual amnesty is attractive, but the lessons from Spain and Italy, both of which have previously implemented amnesties, is that it does little more encourage more migrants to come, waiting for the next "amnesty" to come along. There needs to be a carrot and stick approach, involving a very juicy carrot and a great big stick: either you become "legal", or well, you can get out. Afterwards, the points system currently planned, for all its faults, is probably the best option, with those with needed skills allowed to come. We certainly continue to need immigration, and if anything will need it more as our "indigenous" population ages. Those so furious in the Mail's comments would soon be gasping for the immigrants to return when the crops rot in the fields, the pensions of their children become worthless and the NHS withers. Then again, with some in those comments calling for a coup, perhaps that sort of thing is innately attractive.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007 

The footballer, deportation and the dilution of asylum rights.

If there were to be a case that's likely to highlight the inherent unfairness at the centre of this country's asylum system while also one bound to be covered by the tabloids, then you might well have to rely on a footballer facing deportation. That today has happened after Al Bangura, a player with Watford who sought refuge here from Sierra Leone four years ago had his bid to stay rejected.

It would be difficult to come up with a more convincing argument for why someone like Bangura should be allowed to stay. Not only has he most certainly contributed to the community that originally offered him asylum, he's since established a family, with his first child being born only this month, is in paid employment and has helped Watford towards an immediate return to the Premier League after being relegated last season, as the club currently sits at the top of the Championship. Bangura, who was originally trafficked here and sexually assaulted on his arrival, also fears that if returned he could face persecution at the hands of the Soko tribe, formely led by his late father.

Common sense seems to be an alien concept both to the asylum and immigration service in its current form and to the ministers concerned only with inexorably lowering the numbers claiming refuge. While the case of Jahongir Sidikov and deportations to Uzbekistan have become more widely known thanks to Craig Murray's intervention, other disturbing cases, such as that of Maud Lennard, an opponent of Robert Mugabe who sought asylum here only to be racially abused and beaten by guards trying to return her to Malawi, and Meltem Avcil, a 14-year-old girl held for 3 months in Yarl's Wood detention centre where she became suicidally depressed are all too widespread, and many of them receive no coverage whatsoever. The Home Office was so determined to get rid of Meltem and her mother that it apparently attempted to charter a private jet, at no doubt huge cost.

Perhaps the case of Bangura will help to draw attention towards those such as Sidikov that face the prospect of torture if deported to their home countries. The real danger is that as the political climate turns increasingly towards "tough" limits on migration in general that asylum seekers themselves become stigmatised and tarred with the same brush. The latest proposed removal of rights from "failed" asylum seekers, that of access to GP surgeries, does nothing to dissuade from that view. Apart from not affecting their access to accident and emergency departments, it's a fundamental declaration that a class of people, who in most cases have fled genuine oppression, are in effect unpersons and will be treated as such until they decide to leave or are forcibly deported. We earnestly fight against any increase in the detention without charge limit, while such vulnerable people are often forgotten or held for even longer than 42 days. All the signs are that life is about to get even more harsh for those daring to dream of a better life, and never have the aspirations of a few trampled over so many others.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007 

Home Office to deport failed asylum seeker back to Uzbekistan.

The base inhumanity of the government's policy on asylum seekers seems to have absolutely no depths. Prepared to send "failed" asylum seekers back to Zimbabwe, Sudan, Congo and Iraq, all out of an impossible effort to appease the tabloids which a few years ago decided that those fleeing persecution were actually all skiving chancers looking for something for nothing, the Home Office's latest jaw-dropping attempt at reducing the figures by one is to deport a member of the banned opposition party Erk back to Uzbekistan. That's right, the country which only a couple of weeks ago was exposed on Newsnight as using forced child labour to pick the cotton crop.

Jahongir Sidikov has according to Craig Murray had his plane ticket back to the country booked for this evening. For all I know as I write this he could already be on his way back. Beyond any possible argument, deportation back to such a repressive state as Uzbekistan is almost certainly illegal under international law. As Craig writes, the UN Convention against Torture forbids deportation back to any state where there are "substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture". There is no doubt whatsoever that in Uzbekistan torture is completely endemic in the criminal justice system; Human Rights Watch released a 90-page report (PDF) on November 7 documenting just that. To send Sidikov back to Uzbekistan would be the equivalent of handing him over to the Uzbek authorities, who will doubtless ensure this time that Sidikov remains "disappeared".

The case throws up huge questions about the entire asylum system, from those whom initially decided that he could be safely deported back to Uzbekistan to the judge who rubber stamped the deportation with apparent contempt for the defence's entire arguments. She refused to accept that Craig, who was to be a witness, could not get to the court even though he was in Africa; and that a letter from the opposition leader Mohammed Salih was genuine, even though Murray knows for a fact that it was. The much hyped "fast-tracking" seems to be working perfectly to the government's short-term political advantage: within 2 weeks Sidikov has been refused asylum, had his appeal rejected and is now to be flown back to Uzbekistan. The consequences of this mean that the lawyers for the asylum seekers have very little time to prepare their cases: all very good for the government's spin on reducing the numbers seeking asylum and the "failed" ones being deported; incredibly tragic and unfair for those seeking refuge.

This comes only a week after the Home Office was criticised, according to the BBC's Mark Easton, in the most fierce way he had ever seen by a independent committee, which found that only 8% of complainants to the Border and Immigration Agency were even interviewed, while 89% of subsequent investigations into complaints were "neither balanced nor thorough". No one though really much cares about systematic injustice when it happens to some of the most weak and often wrongly reviled in society. Occasionally, when it involves families like the Kachepas it moves outside the pages of the broadsheets and into the tabloids, but the Independent is around the only newspaper to have consistently highlighted the huge problems and injustices which litter the asylum system. There are, as one of the report's authors said, not a lot of votes in such issues, especially when "human rights" have been turned into such dirty words by the likes of the Scum.

That there might be the most important point. It's the job of the media to push for such potentially unpopular and minority causes, and as the tabloids, which used to lead such campaigns far more than they do now have changed from newspapers into daily celebrity report sheets, awareness itself has collapsed. Where also are the Liberal Democrat or backbench Labour MPs to call for an end to such chilling deportations? It's a truism that a society can be judged by the way it treats the most vulnerable and those that it imprisons, and when it deports those very same people to such flagrant human rights abusers as Uzbekistan, this country deserves to be condemned in the most strident possible terms.

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Saturday, March 31, 2007 

Don't come asylum-seekin' with us.

This government regularly finds itself being strongly criticised for its myriad failings. The right-wing press tend to lap these up, whether they themselves or those they support have any solutions of their own.

It's therefore only when you consider how the tabloids have been so successful in demonising immigrants of all kinds that it becomes apparent why not a single right-wing newspaper seems to have bothered reporting the findings of the Joint Committee of Human Rights on how Home Office legislation has affected asylum seekers over the last 10 years (PDF). One paragraph especially is worth reproducing in full:

120. We consider that by refusing permission for most asylum seekers to work and operating a system of support which results in widespread destitution, the treatment of asylum seekers in a number of cases reaches the Article 3 ECHR (European Convention of Human Rights) threshold of inhuman and degrading treatment. This applies at all stages of the asylum claim process: when an individual is attempting to claim asylum, during the period of consideration of their claim and during the period after their claim is refused if they are unable to return to their country of origin. Many witnesses have told us that they are convinced that destitution is a deliberate tool in the operation of immigration policy. We have been persuaded by the evidence that the Government has indeed been practising a deliberate policy of destitution of this highly vulnerable group. We believe that the deliberate use of inhumane treatment is unacceptable. We have seen instances in all cases where the Government’s treatment of asylum seekers and refused asylum seekers falls below the requirements of the common law of humanity and of international human rights law.

In the section on treatment by the media (dealt with in more detail by FCC) the report makes this recommendation:

We recommend that Ministers recognise their responsibility to use measured language so as not to give ammunition to those who seek to build up resentment against asylum seekers, nor to give the media the excuse to write inflammatory or misleading articles.

At the beginning of March, our beloved home secretary made the following statement:

"It is unfair that foreigners come to this country illegitimately and steal our benefits, steal our services like the NHS and undermine the minimum wage by working."

Who needs the BNP when you have John Reid? Not that there is any evidence that "foreigners" are coming here to "steal" our benefits: only 3% of the foreign nationals (662,000) who came here in 2005 were claiming them last year.

Will the report make any difference? When so little of the media seems to have noticed it, or rather bothered to report it (the Independent has a report, the Grauniad bases a leader around it, and the Mirror has a Reuters article although probably nothing in the actual paper; the Mail did earlier in the week report on a Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust paper which covered similar ground) it's hard to be enthusiastic. FCC again probably has it right: asylum seekers are so passé. The new target for irrational hatred is Muslims or east European migrants. When no one cares about you enough to even hate you, you may as well not exist, which seems to be what the government would prefer.

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