Still Human, Still Here

"Shameful”, “inhumane”, “oppressive”, “indefensible”, “adversarial”, “wholly unjustified”, a “blemish” on Britain’s reputation, and treatment that falls "seriously below the standards to be expected of a humane and civilised society”. 

Just some of the condemnatory language from today’s Independent Asylum Commission’s report on how the UK deals with asylum-seekers. Major BBC coverage so far today and the Independent (already on a roll with some cracking stories recently) has done a big new piece and powerful leader (“our asylum service still leaves an enormous amount to be desired”). And as you might have imagined, Chicken Yoghurt is …er, spitting feathers about it.

The government’s mounted a fairly robust defence of its policies (the “firm but fair” mantra) but not robust enough, I couldn’t help noticing, to have anyone “available” to do a Today programme interview in the flagship 8.10 slot this morning. Today also had some (relatively rare) voices of actual asylum-seekers speaking with some bewilderment about their often harrowing experiences in the UK (never mind having escaped torture in places like Iran and the Congo). Check them out.

 Also, lend your support to our "Still Human, Still Here" campaign. Asylum-seekers, whether “recognised” by the Home Office or not, are (to point out the obvious) still human and, given that they’re often extremely fearful of being forced back to lethally dangerous places like Iraq, many of them are also still here in the UK.

And what do some refused asylum-seekers reluctant to go back to war-zones or persecution get for their pains? Destitution. On the streets of York, London or Manchester. Call me a bleeding heart liberal, but I think that locking people up who haven’t committed a crime or cutting off their support to starve them out of the country is … er, well inhumane. They’re still human and still here. And they deserve better than this general shabbiness.

(By the way – and I just thought I’d mention this – hearing the Independent Asylum Commission’s – rather suave, old-school – spokesman David Ramsbotham on the radio this morning reminded me of the time, about 10 years ago, when I was at an event about prison art with Ramsbotham speaking – he used to be chief inspector of prisons. The superbly talented Brian “Baby’s On Fire” Eno was there as well. As I say, just thought I’d mention this).

Meanwhile, remember when there were all those stories about how Tony Blair might have a dodgy heart? (“No heart”, said some). Well, ok, some of the media coverage might have been a little prurient, but I don’t recall any journalists getting prison sentences for reporting the fact that our leader was less than medically perfect.

Not so in Egypt. A newspaper editor called Ibraham Eissa has just got six months for daring to publish a story about how Egypt’s 79-year-old President Mubarak might have deteriorating health. Read more here.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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