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Friday, 11 May, 2001, 06:09 GMT 07:09 UK
Asylum seekers: New handcuff row
Child asylum-seekers
Many failed asylum seekers are being housed at Cardiff Jail
BBC Wales has learned that more failed asylum seekers from Cardiff Jail were taken from a prison van in handcuffs before undergoing medical tests.

The news comes in the wake of uproar last week when it was revealed that a group of 20 detainees had been taken to hospital for routine tuberculosis tests - and were kept in handcuffs until the tests took place.

William Graham AM
William Graham : appalled

Conservative Welsh Assembly member William Graham, who revealed details of the first incident, has since discovered that 11 detainees experienced the same treatment on Wednesday.

A spokesman for the prison service said that, in line with national policy, they were handcuffed for security reasons as they were taken from the prison vehicle to the hospital.

The handcuffs were, however, removed while the tests took place at Cardiff Royal Infirmary.

This latest revelation will reawaken the controversy surrounding the treatment of asylum seekers being housed temporarily at Cardiff jail.

Human rights

All have been refused permission to settle in Britain, and are either awaiting deportation or appeals against deportation orders.

Last week there were calls for an inquiry into the way the people were treated, amid suggestions that their human rights had been breached.

"It is inhumane and degrading and certainly contrary to the way we should be treating people," said Mr Graham, one of the members for south Wales east.

Lawyers have already successfully argued for many would-be settlers to be released pending their applications to the home office, but want the policy of using prisons to be changed immediately.

Cardiff prison
Cardiff Prison is being used as a detention centre

Julian Phillips, one of the lawyers representing asylum seekers at Cardiff prison, described the incident as "a complete infringement of human rights".

But, he added, it was not the fault of the prison service.

"The prison service have been told that they must keep them securely, and if they're going to do that, they're going to handcuff them," he said.

"That's not the issue - the issue is that they shouldn't be in prison in the first place.

Policy attacked

"They should be held in proper immigration detention centres where there are proper facilities for them."

The first claims of mistreatment came just hours after an assembly minister attacked the Home Office policy of detaining failed asylum seekers in jail.

Local Government Minister Edwina Hart said it was not appropriate for refugees to be kept under such conditions.

But she told AMs in a statement that it was not possible to change the situation in Wales so long as the assembly failed to have control over its own destiny.

Detention centres

Mrs Hart has since written to UK Immigration Minister Barbara Roche expressing her concern about allegations of "appalling" conditions in which 32 asylum seekers are currently being held in at Cardiff Prison.

Up to 100 have been detained at the jail since February.

The Home Office plans to use prisons to detain up to 500 people until new dedicated immigration detention centres become available later this year.

Mrs Hart said she was concerned by claims about the diet and accommodation of the asylum seekers held at Cardiff Prison.

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See also:

04 May 01 | UK Politics
Blair urges asylum law reform
05 Apr 01 | UK Politics
Councils 'overspend on asylum seekers'
07 Feb 01 | UK
Asylum seeker figures
03 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Alarm over 'starving' asylum seekers
06 Feb 01 | UK Politics
UK moves to block asylum seekers
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