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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 May, 2003, 07:07 GMT 08:07 UK
Treat asylum seekers 'humanely' plea
Afghan asylum seeker
An Afghan asylum seeker holds up his deportation order
Refugee campaign groups have broadly welcomed a report which urges that asylum seekers be treated more humanely.

Members of the influential Home Affairs select committee said it was "morally unacceptable" that failed asylum seekers were abandoned by the system.

The Refugee Council agreed and called the findings "one of the most compelling contributions to the asylum debate in recent years".

The council added it was "particularly encouraged" by the committee's recommendation that asylum seekers be seen as human beings, not numbers.

Margaret Lally, acting chief executive, urged the government to take note of the committee's recommendations on improving its system for allowing people to voluntarily go home.

Fair hearing

"A process where people return willingly, and with some assistance, will be more cost-effective and will lead to more durable solutions," she said.

She agreed that the integrity of the asylum system relied on people who had failed in their bids to stay in the UK be removed quickly.

"However, as this report recognises, integrity is not achieved simply by removing people," she said.

"As noted in the report, improving the quality of initial decision-making and ensuring asylum seekers are treated to a fair hearing would increase the efficiency of the whole process and is an essential pre-requisite for a properly functioning removals process."

Meaningful activity would make a great difference to these people and their countries
Refugee Action

The charity Refugee Action also welcomed the report but cautioned against drawing the link between the growth in asylum seekers and the political successes of extremist parties.

Spokesman Leigh Daynes urged the government to tackle the "perception in this country that it is fundamentally unfair that asylum seekers come here to seek safety".

"We cannot allow the British National Party to exploit asylum seekers," he said.

"It detracts from the real experience of asylum seekers - innocent people caught up in global political events."

He said many of the failed asylum seekers he spoke to wanted to work and allowing them to do so would let them support themselves and send money to help with the rebuilding of their countries.

"Meaningful activity would make a great difference to these people and their countries."

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