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Detaining asylum seekers

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 15 February 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:456

Automatic independent judicial review would reduce unnecessary suffering

  1. Mary Salinsky, Parliamentary liaison officera
  1. a Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, London NW5 3EJ

    The recent hunger strike by asylum seekers detained at Rochester prison has brought to public attention the British government's practice of detaining some of those seeking political asylum. Between 750 and 800 such people are in British prisons or detention centres at any one time. Some remain detained for over a year. This practice is neither humane, nor, in most cases, necessary.

    Britain has accepted international obligations to identify and protect refugees who have a genuine fear of persecution “for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.” 1 This necessitates procedures to decide which asylum seekers meet this criteria. Unfortunately, Britain's current procedures involve long delays before decisions are reached, and too often they fail to inspire confidence that the right decision has been made.

    The most important consideration for asylum seekers when they arrive in Britain is to know that they have reached a place of safety. They are often …

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