Bishop shocked by 'horrific' treatment of immigration detainees

 Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue, Chair of the Catholic Bishops Conference's Office for Refugee Policy, issued the following statement on the abuse of Immigration detainees as revealed by the BBC's Asylum Undercover programme, 2nd March 2005. I was deeply shocked by the BBC's revelation of the horrific levels of racism, violence and abuse within the immigration detention and removal system. I was saddened by the attitude of those in charge of some of the most vulnerable and traumatised people - many of whom suffered persecution, imprisonment and torture in their countries of origin. Detention in these circumstances can have serious psychiatric and medical consequences particularly when they are held in 'prison-like' conditions and abused. It is not enough to claim that "it's only a few rotten apples." It has gone beyond that. The immigration minister, Des Browne, is right in calling for an investigation into what has happened. However, I would go further and call for a full independent inquiry into the whole immigration detention regime. It is unacceptable that people who have not committed a crime or brought before a court are detained without time limits and only limited rights to bail. Under these circumstances there must be more safeguards, especially in the light of the government's intention to further increase the use of detention and removals. It is right that detention and removals are part of any fair, efficient and humane asylum system. But as the UNHCR concluded the detention of asylum eekers 'should normally be avoided and that, insofar as it occurs, detainees should be able to challenge the lawfulness of their detention' Removals ought to be in conditions of safety and dignity. Providing protection to vulnerable and violated people must always be central to our asylum system. Source: Diocese of Lancaster

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