Exclusive: Asylum seekers still held in prisons in Northern Ireland

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,
writes Amy Taylor.

Last July Lord Rooker, the then minister of state for
regeneration and regional development, said that the government
would try to achieve a “satisfactory solution” to the
problem in the House of Lords.

The Refugee Action Group, a coalition of refugee and human
rights campaigners, found that the number of asylum seekers
imprisoned in Northern Ireland has remained at a similar level with
48 being imprisoned between March 2003 and February 2004 and around
50 being detained in the following 12 months.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland programme director for
Amnesty International, said that despite Rooker’s pledge the
government had “done nothing”. Corrigan said he would
like to see the use of prisons abolished and replaced with
arrangements where asylum seekers would remain living in their

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 alternative immigration detention

A Home Office spokesperson said that there were no plans to open
an immigration removal centre in Northern Ireland.

He concluded that all Northern Ireland detainees were
transferred to removal centres in Britain unless they had asked to
stay in Northern Ireland.

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