Churches challenge Woolas on asylum

By Simon Barrow
November 24, 2008

Immigration Minister Phil Woolas last week attacked lawyers and human rights groups for their work on asylum. The Churches Refugee and Racial Justice Network has responded strongly. Here is their joint statement, drafted by Fleur Houston:

"Phil Woolas concludes (You can't come in, Guardian, 18 Nov 08) that an
asylum seeker who won the right to stay in this country after going
through six layers of appeal has " no right to be in this country."
He is implying that the law is being undermined by its own due

We represent a large number of churches across denominational
boundaries with a concern for the plight of those who seek asylum in
the UK, a shared belief in human dignity and a desire to see that
justice is done. The question here is not so much why that person
finally won the right to remain in this country but why there was a
need for six appeals. In asylum hearings, the primary function of
the Home Office advocate is surely not to use all means to ensure
that the applicant is refused asylum but rather that he or she is
given justice through a rigorous but fair search for the truth. It
should be possible to dispose of strong cases early, not on the basis
of "an industry out there with a vested interest" but on the basis
of reliable expert reports obtained in preparing for a hearing.

Woolas cites an interview with a constituent, scarred by rape. Her
plight might have led him to enquire why there are frequent
indications in the courts of a lack of professional respect for
medico-legal expert reports, dealing with the effects of torture and
rape. His remarks are symptomatic of a decision-making system which
dehumanises and which is directed at achieving targets and
statistical outcomes befitting political aims and strategies rather
than objectives of humanity or justice.

We believe that in this country our elected leaders have a moral
responsibility to ensure that values of humanity are upheld and
justice seen to be applied fairly and without bias and we invite Mr
Woolas to do the same.

Thanks to Puck de Raadt

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