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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 January 2006, 06:51 GMT
Probe into immigration detention
Some asylum seekers must survive on 38.96 per week
Asylum seekers are held in prisons in Northern Ireland
An investigation is being launched into the detention of asylum seekers and migrants in Northern Ireland.

It will be carried out by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission which is due to visit detention centres.

It will examine why detainees are held in prisons - the only place in the UK where this happens - and how complaints are resolved.

The condition of centres, and issues such as legal advice, health care and diet, will also be investigated.

Chief Commissioner Professor Monica McWilliams said: "Northern Ireland is the only place in the UK where immigration detainees are held in prison as a matter of course.

"The decisions taken by immigration officers to detain asylum seekers appear to be arbitrary, inconsistent, and, on a number of occasions, seem to have breached international and domestic human rights norms.

"This is an extremely important issue which we plan to investigate.

Monica McWilliams
Monica McWilliams said it was an issue which needed investigation

"We hope that our research will contribute to an informed debate in Northern Ireland on how to improve conditions for asylum seekers and migrants in Northern Ireland."

Guidelines issued by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees permit detention in certain circumstances, such as to verify identity, to determine the basis of the asylum claim, to protect national security or public order.

The guidelines state that detention should always be for the shortest possible period.

However, the commission is concerned that the guidelines are currently not being followed.

A delegation from the commission, led by Professor McWilliams, will visit the Crumlin Road detention centre on Thursday where males are held.

Staff will also interview some of the female detainees held in Hydebank Wood.

The purpose of the visits is to meet staff and detainees and listen to their opinions and concerns.

In addition, the commission has requested a wide range of information from the Home Office.

The commission hopes that its research will lead to improvements in the asylum and immigration system as it is applied in Northern Ireland.

The commission will publish the findings of its research in the form of a report later this year.

NI 'must be safer for refugees'
28 Apr 05 |  Northern Ireland

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