Commissioner for human rights slams UK’s asylum system

The UK’s track record on the detention of children, the
asylum system and use of antisocial behaviour orders was today
slammed by the commissioner for human rights following his visit to
the UK last November, writes Clare

Alvaro Gil-Robles slammed the practice of detaining asylum
seekers, in particular “the sheer extent of its

In a report published today the commissioner highlighted that he
was also concerned over the length of detention and the conditions
asylum seekers were subjected to in detention.

He said he was struck by the fact that many detainees were
“poorly informed” of what was going to happen to them
and urged greater communication on the part of immigration

“It is worrying, in this content, to note both the
frequency and duration of the detention of children in the United
Kingdom,” he said, adding that the possibility of detained
children attending local schools should be investigated.

He added that the number of children detained with their
families suggested insufficient attention had been paid to
examining alternative provision.

The report also highlighted asylum seekers being detained in
prisons and it stressed that, as there was no shortage of space in
the immigration detention estate, there was “little
excuse” for transferring asylum seekers to a prison.

“I can only urge that the practice of detaining asylum
seekers in ordinary prisons be stopped immediately,” he

The report highlights that a number of non-governmental
organisations had highlighted the poor initial decision-making in
asylum cases and he attributed this to the “extremely limited
training” offered to immigration staff.

In relation to the asylum system he concluded: “It cannot
but be concluded, however, that a number of recent reforms have
placed the effective enjoyment of human rights and the entitlement
to refugee protection in some peril.”

In his report, Gil-Robles also draws attention to the detention
of juvenile offenders and highlights that the UK has amongst the
highest rate of juvenile detention in Western Europe.

“Such a large number of young and juvenile detainees is in
itself of concern,” he said adding that while the high levels
suggested a lack of alternatives, this was not the case but the
problem was that magistrates and judges did not have enough faith
in them.

The commissioner stressed that young offenders have often
experienced troubled childhoods and special attention was required
to their educational and psychological needs. However he noted a
lack of appropriate psychological care and inadequate education or
purposeful activity.

“The conclusion would appear to be that there are too many
young offenders in custody doing too little in overcrowded and
stressful conditions.”

Gil-Robles recommended that the UK raised the age of criminal
responsibility in line with norms across Europe and warned that it
was of particular concern that antisocial behaviour orders were
being issued to children as young as 10-years-old in England.

He stressed that the excessive use of Asbos was more likely to
exacerbate antisocial behaviour as often children breached the
Asbos and as a consequence ended up in prison. They risked
alienating and stigmatising children, entrenching their errant

The report also warned that it was not appropriate for members
of the public to be informed about the application of Asbos.

“Such indiscriminate naming and shaming would, in my view,
not only be counter productive, but also a violation of Article 8
of the ECHR,” he concluded.



* Increase the use of alternative forms of supervision of
families with children pending deportation

* Ensure that the detention of minors for any period be
authorised by a judicial authority and subject to periodic judicial

*Improve the quality of fisrt instance asylum decisions by
immigration officers through increased training

Juvenile justice

* Bring the age of criminal responsibility in the Uk in line
with European norms

* Provide greater investment in alternative sentences for
juvenile and young offenders

Antisocial behaviour orders

* Raise to 16 the age at which children in breach of terms of
Asbos may be sentenced to custody

* Reformulate Asbo guidelines so that they neither encourage nor
permit the excessive publicity of the making of orders against

Prison conditions

* Address the problem of over crowding in prisons through the
construction of new detention facilities

* Improve psychiatric support in the adult prison etate

* in Scotland eradicate slopping-out practices


* Reintroduce the obligation on local authorities to provide
sites for Gypsies and Travellers

The Commission for Equality and Human

Ensure the Commission enjoys the necessary resources and
independence to carry out its functions effectively

Report from


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