Asylum Seekers

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2002 National Delegate Conference
9 May 2002

This Conference notes with grave concern the rising violence, state racism and inhumane treatment directed against asylum seekers in Britain and abroad in the past year.

Conference further notes:

1)The horrific conditions which force asylum seekers to flee war-torn countries, as illustrated by the media coverage of the continuing war in Afghanistan;

2)The Home Secretary’s announcement that the discriminatory voucher system will be scrapped and replaced with a cash-based system. The change of policy shows the importance of effective campaigning in support of asylum seekers and refugees;

3)That despite this welcome decision, the voucher system will continue until autumn 2002, at 70 per cent of income support around £40 per week;

4)The ID cards, set to replace vouchers, will act as electronic vouchers thus continuing to stigmatise asylum applicants;

5)The ID cards, which contain fingerprint and photograph data, could well be a trial run for a national identity card scheme;

6)Asylum seekers will no longer be held in mainstream prisons, but the number of detention centres, effectively special prisons for asylum seekers – will increase from 1,900 to 4,000. The accommodation centres may offer many facilities, but asylum seekers will be given not choice as to whether they stay in them. If they do not they will receive no support;

7)Forced dispersal will continue, with asylum seekers compelled to live often in impoverished areas where they lack both family and community support;

8)The Government’s quotas for the removal of asylum seekers effectively breaches the requirement of the 1951 Geneva Convention, that each asylum claim be treated on its individual merits;

9)The Government has since early April given the Immigration Service the power to discriminate against particular ethnic groups, allowing immigration officers to reject arbitrarily the asylum applications of Albanians and Iraqi Kurds among others.

This Conference believes the Government’s measures and proposals fuel racism, and form part of a general assault on civil liberties.

This Conference instructs the National Executive Council to campaign for:

a)The defence and extension of the 1951 Geneva Convention on the rights of asylum seekers;

b)For asylum seekers to receive cash benefits at the level of income support, and to have the legal right to work;

c)The closure of detention centres, and for asylum seekers to have the right to choose whether to stay in open accommodation centres with no loss of rights, and support for those choosing not to;

d)An end to forced dispersal;

e)An end to racial harassment and discrimination of asylum seekers and refugees in local communities, notably by accommodation providers.

This Conference agrees to support all initiatives towards the ends outlined above. In particular, we agree to support the National Assembly Against Racism’s Speak Out Against Racism campaign and the Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers.

Further, Conference notes with gravest concern the events surrounding the fire at Yarls Wood Detention Centre, especially the allegations of ill-treatment by Group 4 of a woman in need of medical assistance, the Fire Brigade’s concern at the delay in giving them access to the burning building and the uncertainty over deaths.

Conference gives full support to calls for an open public inquiry and a freeze on deporting key witnesses.