IMMIGRATION AND ASYLUM ACT: MISSED OPPORTUNITY

The extension of carriersÃŒ sanctions to cover lorries crossing the Channel will place the onus on drivers to ensure that their cargo does not include potential asylum-seekers . Otherwise they risk fines of £2,000 per passenger or having their lorry impounded. Unlike airlines, haulage companies will not be reimbursed if a stowaway is subsequently granted refugee status.

The GovernmentÌs approach to deterring and preventing the arrival of passengers fails to discriminate between people fleeing persecution and others. The imposition of visas and carriersÌ sanctions has forced many asylum-seekers into the hands of agents who profit by ÏtraffickingÓ in human misery.

Those who apply for asylum a port of entry will be dispersed from today. Dispersal of other asylum-seekers has been delayed due to a shortage of accommodation.

As presently arranged, dispersal measures will inevitably lead to serious problems. Forced dispersal risks exposing asylum-seekers to racist attack and isolation, as well as lack of access to legal expertise which is focused in London and the South-East.

All new asylum applicants will be living on vouchers with too little cash to allow them to seek the quality legal advice needed to present an asylum claim.

Jan Shaw, Refugee Officer at Amnesty International UK said:

ÏMany asylum seekers are fleeing the risk of torture, death or wrongful imprisonment. In 1999 over 50% of asylum applicants whose cases were determined on their merits were recognised as refugees or granted exceptional leave to remain.

ÏWe need an asylum system that can quickly and fairly sort those who have a well founded fear of persecution and those who donÌt. The Immigration and Asylum Act is a missed opportunity to develop a fair and efficient asylum system.Ó

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