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Friday, 7 September, 2001, 03:54 GMT 04:54 UK
Kurds challenge 'illegal' detention
Oakington immigration centre
Asylum seekers are held for seven days at Oakington
Four Iraqi Kurds locked up at a refugee centre in Cambridgeshire after claiming asylum in the UK could be in line for substantial compensation.

The High Court is due to rule on the application by the men who claim their detention at Oakington was a breach of their human rights to security and liberty.

The test case could result in the release of hundreds of asylum seekers from the immigration centre.

Asylum seekers sent to the showpiece immigration centre are held for seven days while waiting for initial decisions on their applications.

Depriving people of their liberty simply because it suits you better really will not wash

Louise Pirouet
Immigration expert
The Home Office argues that holding them at the former RAF barracks is lawful because it is a reception centre not a detention facility.

But immigration expert Louise Pirouet expects the court to rule that locking people up for the sake of administrative convenience is unlawful.

"Depriving people of their liberty simply because it suits you better really will not wash," she said

Refugee status

The Kurds have argued that the government had no right to deprive them of their liberty because there was no reason to believe they would abscond.

Three of them have since been granted refugee status

If the judge rules against the Home Office, the government will appeal and a hearing could take place within a week.

If it loses on appeal, the four men could win millions of pounds in compensation for themselves and the thousands of other asylum seekers who have been locked up at Oakington since it opened in March last year.

The BBC's Sally Chidzoy reports
"Potentially it is a hugely embarrassing judgement for the Home Office"
Immigration Service Union's Martin Slade
"If everyone disappears it makes the job almost impossible"
See also:

03 Sep 01 | Scotland
Asylum 'prison' campaign hots up
04 Sep 01 | UK
Aiming for England
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