The latest in a series of national citizens’ enquiries into the UK asylum system will hear evidence on the asylum appeals process at a public hearing in Leeds on Thursday 20 September. While media-driven attitudes have hardened, the Independent Asylum Commission advocates a measured approach.
The Independent Asylum Commission is visiting Yorkshire to collect evidence for an impartial citizens’ enquiry. The Commission will publish a report in 2008 that is expected to produce recommendations for reform of the asylum system that are fair as well as forceful, and realistic as well as humane.
The Yorkshire and the Humber Hearing is the fifth of seven public hearings across the UK. An august team of Commissioners, including former High Court Judge Sir John Waite, President of the Association of Muslim Lawyers Ifath Nawaz, Canon Theologian at Westminster Abbey the Rev Nicholas Sagovsky, and former Chief Inspector of Prisons, Lord Ramsbotham, will hear first-hand testimony from:
* asylum seekers and refugees with experience of the appeals system from Leeds, Hull, Wakefield and Halifax;
* the chair of the Regional Migration Partnership;
* an Immigration Judge;
* a senior manager from the Legal Services Commission;
* the Refugee Council;
* and local refugee charities working with asylum seekers.
The Yorkshire and the Humber Hearing will be hosted at the New Civic Theatre at Leeds Metropolitan University.
The Independent Asylum Commission was set up following an enquiry into Lunar House, the headquarters of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (now the Borders and Immigration Agency), by South London Citizens, whose report, “A humane service for global citizens” was published in November 2005 and led to major changes in the way asylum seekers were treated.
Sir John Waite, a former Judge of the High Court and Co-chair of the Commission said: "Asylum appeals are crucial to ensuring that asylum seekers’ cases are dealt with appropriately. About 20% of asylum seekers win their case on appeal having been turned down by the Home Office. At the Commission’s hearing on 20 September we shall be receiving evidence as to whether the system is working, whether it is being abused as some immigration judges tell us, and how it could be improved. I shall look forward to learning more about the situation of asylum seekers in Yorkshire and the Humber more generally."
Ifath Nawaz, President of the Association of Muslim Lawyers and Co-chair of the Commission added: "As we embark on our fifth public hearing, we look forward to receiving evidence on the experience of those who have to appeal an asylum decision. Whilst having heard the points of views of Government representatives and the NGOs, the Commissioners are particularly keen to hear from those with personal experiences of the asylum system and how it has affected them.”
Meanwhile, Jonathan Cox, Co-ordinator of the Independent Asylum Commission, declared: “This is the first independent review of asylum policy. We are going out of our way to listen to all sides of the debate, all around the country. But the public hearings are just the tip of the iceberg. We are already receiving hundreds of written submissions - from asylum seekers reporting alleged inhumane treatment right through to citizens reporting abuses of an asylum system which they perceive to be too generous."
Cox continued: "I encourage anyone who wishes to report an abuse of the asylum system or has examples of inhumane treatment of asylum seekers to respond to the call for evidence on our website or write to IAC, 112 Cavell St, London, E1 2JA.”
The Yorkshire and the Humber Public Hearing begins at 14.30 on 20 September and the Independent Asylum Commission Roadshow – a promotional public event for the Commission featuring music from Zeela, a choir of Liberian refugees, drama from Theatre under Fire, exhibits from Kurdish digital artist Adalet Garmiany and advice on how citizens can contribute to the Commission – begins at 18.45 on the same day at the Carriageworks Theatre.