The government has failed to tackle Northern Ireland’s practice of
detaining asylum seekers in prisons despite pledging to do so
almost a year ago, Community Care has learned.
Last July Lord Rooker, the then minister of state for regeneration
and regional development, said in the House of Lords that the
government would try to achieve a “satisfactory solution” to the
Refugee Action Group, a coalition of refugee and human rights
campaigners, found that the number of asylum seekers imprisoned in
Northern Ireland between March 2003 and February 2004 was 48 and
about 50 were detained in the following 12 months.
Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland programme director for Amnesty
International, said that despite Rooker’s pledge the government had
Corrigan said he would like to see the use of prisons abolished and
replaced with arrangements where asylum seekers would remain living
in their communities.
Asylum seekers are detained in prisons across the UK but usually
only when they have been convicted of a crime and are left in
prison after their sentence has finished rather than being
transferred to a detention centre. In Northern Ireland, prisons are
used because there are no immigration detention facilities.
A Home Office spokesperson said that there were no plans to open an
immigration removal centre in Northern Ireland.
He said that the male detainees, who are all held at Crumlin Road
Prison, Belfast, were kept separately from prisoners and had their
own rooms and dining area. Female detainees, who are at Hydebank
Wood Prison, Belfast, were accommodated on a separate
All detainees in Northern Ireland were transferred to removal
centres in Britain unless they had asked to stay in Northern
Ireland, he added.