British churches say new asylum measures are 'unworkable'

 Churches in the UK have dismissed measures proposed by the government for dealing with refugees as impossible to put into practice. Last week Home Secretary David Blunkett announced that failed asylum applicants should be immediately returned to countries they have passed through on the way to Britain and lodge appeals from there. But Rev Arlington Trotman, Secretary of of the Churches' Commission for Racial Justice (CCRJ) said: "These proposals bear all the hallmarks of a knee-jerk reaction to the crisis in asylum policy in Britain and are likely to demonise further those seeking refuge in Britain. While every effort must be made to speed up claims, effectively removing appeal rights is not the answer. There are no effective bi-lateral agreements for countries to take back asylum seekers from Britain." Rev Trotman said that 25- 45 per cent of people who gain refugee status on appeal were likely to lose this chance because the countries that they would be sent back to to under the new proposals would not have the resources or expertise to help them appeal. He said: "There is every likelihood livse could be put at risk if asylum seekers are returned to some countries. "What is required is a comprehensive, well thought-out asylum policy that is informed by key non-governmental agencies working in the field. Lasting solutions must take account of the negative side of globalisation and develop speedy and fair procedures that acknowledge the dignity of asylum seekers. Government must do everything under the 1951 Geneva Convention to uphold the fundamental human rights of every claimant, and interpret sufficiently broadly, "a well-founded fear" of persecution in order to offer adequate protection, particularly were children's lives are at stake. The Dublin Convention of 1997 is meant to determine which country should deal with an asylum claim, but it simply does not work." * Last week the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, accused European governments and far-right parties of conducting an 'overheated debate' on asylum seekers. As the UK and Denmark both plan to introduce new immigration controls, UNHCR said the numbers requesting asylum in the European Union were not increasing, but were in fact substantially lower than 10 years ago. The agency added that it was concerned that rushed legislation across the EU could result in refugees being denied fair treatment. UNHCR also pointed out that the number of asylum seekers individual EU states were being asked to absorb was relatively small compared with those non-Western countries dealt with - notably Pakistan and Iran, which between them have taken in some four million Afghans. The latest UN figures show annual asylum applications per 1,000 inhabitants as follows: Sweden: 2.57 Netherlands: 2.27 Belgium: 2.16 Germany: 1.94 Denmark: 1.84 Ireland: 1.07 Britain: 0.97 Spain: 0.21

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