NI: Maghaberry - unfit and unsafe for asylum seekers

In the wake of last night's riots in Maghaberry Prison, Amnesty International has repeated its call for an end to the detention of asylum seekers in the prison. Sixteen prison officers were reportedly injured in the riots last night by thirty-five loyalist prisoners.

"Maghaberry is neither a fit nor a safe place for asylum seekers, who have often fled trouble-spots around the world," says Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International's Programme Director in Northern Ireland.

"As well as the mental health concerns we have for the detainees, there is also the added fear of violence within the prison."

"It is now more than four months since Sir John Steele published his report into safety at Maghaberry*. He recommended the separation of loyalist and republican prisoners and an end to the use of Maghaberry as a detention facility for asylum seekers."

"Within hours of its publication, Jane Kennedy, the NIO Minister in charge of prisons, publicly stated that the Government would implement his recommendations on separation. Yet, more than four months on, there has not been a word from her or the Home Office on the detention of asylum seekers."

"These asylum seekers are looking for a new, safe home and all they get is a prison cell in a high security prison plagued by industrial dispute and violence. The NIO and the Home Office should be ashamed of themselves."

"We have been calling for several years now for an end to the imprisonment of asylum seekers. We believe that the practice of imprisonment contravenes international human rights standards on the treatment of asylum seekers."

"We are calling on the Government to put in place alternative arrangements for these asylum seekers ? and to bring this disgraceful policy to an end once and for all."

Notes
A survey published by Amnesty International last summer showed that almost nine out of 10 people in Northern Ireland are opposed to the detention of asylum seekers in Maghaberry.

* Sir John Steele: Review of Safety at HMP Maghaberry, published September 2003.

View latest press releases