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TRAUMATIC incidents of immigration detainees being saved from illegal deportation in “11th-hour reprieves,” is a “new Home Office scandal,” a human-rights group charged today.
At least 16 asylum seekers were pulled at the last minute off a charter flight to various European countries yesterday morning.
Lawyers argued that the Home Office had not acted on indicators that the detainees were victims of torture and trafficking, which should have triggered probes into their cases before deportation was considered.
The latest outrage comes after 25 men were taken off a flight to Jamaica last week after their lawyers found that they had not been granted proper access to legal advice. One of the men is now suffering flashbacks to that night.
Detention Action director Bella Sankey slammed the “11th-hour reprieves” and delay in legal access that can cause psychological damage to detainees.
“The system for legal advice in detention centres is in meltdown and deportations are currently arbitrary,” she added.
Despite the successful legal action, Ms Sankey said that at least one person was deported who had showed indicators of having been trafficked.
The fear that many others could have been deported without receiving proper access to justice was raised by Rudy Schulkind, the Research and policy co-ordinator for Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID)
“We are concerned that the Home Office is frequently overzealous in its attempt to forcibly remove people from the UK, particularly when there is a charter flight scheduled to depart,” he said.
The individuals on Thursday’s flight were deported under the Dublin Convention, which requires refugees to claim asylum in the first safe EU country that they arrive in.
Their lawyers claimed that all those taken off the flight were Eritreans who had passed through Libya — a country with a record of horrific human-rights abuses against refugees.
One of the deportees, who fled Eritrea due to political persecution, told the Independent that he was enslaved and beaten for five months on a farm in Libya.
He said that his claim for asylum in Switzerland had been rejected twice, meaning if he was deported there he would likely be sent back to his home country.
Labour MP David Lammy today described the treatment of asylum seekers and detainees by the Home Office as “deeply disturbing.”
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