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Saturday, October 1, 2016
Asylum seekers are not criminals says JRS
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¬†The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) has warned that the present system of holding asylum seekers in detention centres has "the characteristics of criminal incarceration", and may lead to "significant emotional, physical and mental health problems for detainees". JRS in Europe has published a report entitled Caring for Refugees that runs to almost 200 pages. It highlights the great variance in conditions across Europe and the fact that there is no official list of detention centres, and calls on member states to use detention only when all administrative and judicial appeals have been exhausted. Among the contributors to the report was Louise Zanrť, the Country Director for JRS-UK. She is particularly concerned that detention is being used as a deterrent against irregular immigration, and the arbitrary and open-ended nature of detention in the UK. "We are constantly learning of cases where asylum seekers and refugees are being held and treated like criminals," says Louise. "One man from Kabinda (Angola), for instance, was moved round various detention centres over an 18-month period. He was already severely traumatised after being allegedly tortured and this greatly exacerbated his mental health problems. Or there was the case of the man from China who served three years in Durham high security gaol for a crime ≠ but then spent a further four years and eight months there, awaiting deportation." The JRS-Europe gives further examples, and states: "Although, legally, detention is only an administrative measure and not a measure of the penal system, its application often takes on characteristics of criminal incarceration, resulting in significant emotional, physical and mental health problems for detainees." The British Government has recently announced that it plans to increase the number of places at detention centres to almost 3,000.
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