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EDITIONS
Thursday, 30 May, 2002, 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK
New asylum powers 'ill-conceived'
Public protest against a planned asylum centre in Worcestershire
The issue of asylum has provoked controversy
Plans to deport asylum seekers immediately if their to stay in Britain are rejected have been branded "ill-conceived" and "clear nonsense".

The government proposed the new powers on Thursday in an effort to clear a backlog of appeals from asylum seekers who have been told they can not stay in the UK.


If we believe in civil liberties, which I believe the majority of the British public do, then I believe we should resist these measures.

Keith Best
Director, Immigration Advisory Service
Home Secretary David Blunkett claimed they would cut down on "clear abuses" of the system.

But immigration and civil liberties campaigners disagree.

Keith Best, director of the Immigration Advisory Service said the idea was "clear nonsense".

Speaking on BBC One's Breakfast, Mr Best accused ministers of trying to avoid having their decisions reviewed in the courts.

"The law and the lawyers are the only people who stand between a very vulnerable group, and such liberties and rights as they have, and the over-mighty panoply of the state.

David Blunkett, Home Secretary
Blunkett's asylum plans have sparked anger

"If we believe in civil liberties, which I believe the majority of the British public do, then I believe we should resist these measures."

Mr Best said the scheme appeared to be an attempt by the government to exclude "judicial scrutiny" from the asylum system.

"I'm shocked by these proposals, but not surprised because the government has consistently tried to deny judicial oversight in its actions, which is appalling," he told the programme.

The number of asylum seekers in the UK has been in the spotlight for several months as the row escalated over the Sangatte refugee camp near the French entrance to the Channel Tunnel.

Keith Best
Best - the plans are "nonsense"

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes said the plans amounted to a game of "international human pass the parcel".

He added: "The proposals may sound popular but it is no excuse for them being ill conceived or legally and morally wrong."

But Conservative shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin was more positive.

Risk assessment

He said the new powers sounded similar to those proposed by his party before the last election and told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that with proper safeguards they could work.

Mr Letwin said: "If such proposals are to work something else which I have been talking about for the last few months is going to have to happen, namely some proper independent country risk assessment.

"We discovered recently, for example, that the government had not caught up with the fact that Zimbabwe was not a safe country any more.

"If you are going to work a fast-track system you need to know which countries people can't possibly legitimately be claiming asylum from and that means an independent assessment.

"With proper safeguards when we come to look at the details presumably the week after next, it might work."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Keith Best, Immigration Advisory Service
"I'm shocked by these proposals, but not surprised"
Shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin
"It might work"
Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes
"The proposals may sound popular but it is no excuse for being ill conceived"

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30 May 02 | UK Politics
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