An open letter to Christopher Leslie MP

Dear Mr Leslie,

I am writing to you to express my opposition to the “Detained Fast Track”, a Home Office policy by which many people who arrive in this country seeking asylum are held in immigration detention facilities for long periods while their claims are processed.

Seeking asylum is not illegal – it is a fundamental right protected by international treaty. People come to this country as asylum-seekers because they have a well-founded fear of persecution. Many are escaping from horrors which you and I can barely imagine; many are survivors of torture, rape and other atrocities. They should not be held in detention and treated as though they were criminals. “Fast track” adjudication of asylum claims is also notoriously unfair, with many claims being wrongly refused by UKBA decision-makers.

The conditions in British immigration detention facilities are horrifying. You may have heard about the hunger strike in 2010 at the Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, run by private contractor Serco – in which more than 50 women detainees (many of them survivors of torture and rape) went on hunger strike to protest the inhuman and degrading conditions at the facility and the abuse they suffered. And things have not changed. Although Home Office policy provides that survivors of torture and people with serious physical and mental disabilities should generally not be detained, this rule is often not followed in practice. People who have suffered atrocities are held for long periods in a hostile and unfamiliar environment, in inhuman conditions. This is wrong.

It’s time to put an end to immigration policies which punish people for leaving their country of origin. Our immigration laws are wrong and oppressive, and I hope that you will stand with me in supporting a kinder, more compassionate and more open immigration policy.

Regards,

David Neale

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