Refugee campaigners raised concerns this week about the opening
remarks in a home affairs select committee’s report on asylum
removals, which said the dramatic rise in the number of people
seeking refuge in the UK was “unsustainable” and, if continued
unchecked, could lead to “social unrest”.
While Refugee Action broadly welcomed the report, a spokesperson
said: “It’s not the presence of asylum seekers that leads to social
unrest. It is extremist groups exploiting public misunderstanding,
fuelled by sections of the tabloid press.”
The Refugee Council said it welcomed the report’s acknowledgement
that, although the overall integrity of the asylum process relied
on the ability ultimately to remove those found not to be in need
of protection, “integrity is not achieved simply by removing
The report, which makes numerous recommendations to improve the
removals process, warns that the continuation of current trends
could lead to the election of extremist parties with extreme
The report follows local elections earlier this month which saw the
British National Party gain seats in Stoke-on-Trent, Sandwell,
Dudley, Calderdale, Burnley, and Broxbourne in Hertfordshire.
The report says:”There is nothing more likely to discredit the
notion of asylum than the knowledge that a majority of applicants
are economic migrants, some of whom do not even come from the
country from which they claim to be fleeing.”
While the committee concedes that detention can be justified,
especially where an individual may abscond or engage in criminal
activities, it argues that children should only be detained prior
to removal for a short period, or where the family might
The child’s welfare should be paramount and the separation of a
child of an asylum seeker from both parents by removal is nearly
always “unjustified”, it adds.
A welfare officer should be attached to each removal centre to
resolve the “inadequate” arrangements for having access to legal
advice, the committee suggests. Strip searches of detainees should
only be carried out where justified by reasonable suspicion and not
The report follows damning reports of asylum centres last month by
prisons chief inspector Anne Owers (news, page 10, 10 April).
Welcoming the report, immigration minister Beverley Hughes said
work was under way to find a reliable way to assess the size of the
UK’s illegal population.
– Home Affairs report at www.publications.parliament.uk/pa