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Friday, 7 September, 2001, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
Q&A: Legal victory for refugees

Four Kurdish refugees have won a legal victory that could see hundreds of asylum seekers making compensation claims against the government for time spent in detention. The BBC's Jon Silverman examines the consequences.

What does this judgement mean for the government?

It means the purpose for which Oakington is being used has been declared unlawful. If this judgement is upheld at the Court of Appeal they will have to stop sending people there who are thought to have unfounded claims for asylum, because this judgement says it is not to be used for that purpose.

They will also have to compensate several thousand people who have been there.

Are the claimants likely to receive large payouts?


People will be entitled to a certain amount of money for every day they are held at Oakington

Jon Silverman
People will be entitled to a certain amount of money for every day they are held at Oakington

Most people are not held there for more than about seven days.

But if you multiply it by about 7,000 people, it could run into a big bill for the Home Office.

Is this a big blow for the government?


It's pretty embarrassing for the government

Jon Silverman
It's pretty embarrassing for the government. Oakington has only been open for about 18 months and it came into being after the Asylum and Immigration Act that the government passed a couple of years ago.

It has a policy of fast-tracking asylum claims, and we know that speed is of the essence, and here is a major plank of this policy being declared unlawful, so I would say it was pretty embarrassing.

What happens next?

The judge put a stay on the affect of the judgement which means it does not really come into effect until after the appeal court has considered the case.

That is likely to be in the first week of October, so nothing will happen for at least three weeks.

Does this decision mean that asylum seekers will be released from centres like Oakington?

Not in the short term no. The judge put a stay on the affect of the judgement which means it does not really come into effect until after the appeal court has considered the case.

Will the camp be closed?

There is no way that it will close because it has state of the art facilities, but the purpose of it will change.

Are we likely to see a flood of similar claims?

Not necessarily. If this judgement is upheld then everyone in a similar position to these four asylum seekers will be entitled to compensation.

There may be other people who have been through Oakington who are in a slightly different position and they would have to make their own separate claims.

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