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Wednesday, 11 July, 2001, 18:36 GMT 19:36 UK
Immigrants treated 'like prisoners'
Child asylum-seekers
The prison policy is "inhumane and inappropriate"
Asylum seekers should not be locked up in prisons, according to a Welsh MP.

Cardiff North member Julie Morgan said treating the immigrants like criminals would exacerbate race relations.

Ann Clwyd MP told the House of Commons 41 asylum seekers who are being temporarily housed at Cardiff Prison are being sold drugs and taught how to forge credit cards while locked up in cells.

Cardiff prison
Cardiff Prison is being used as a detention centre
The House of Commons was told the policy was "deeply inhumane and inappropriate."

The overseas incomers are being held with 700 in-mates at the jail under the government's policy of providing prison accommodation before detention centres are built.

They are due for release by Christmas, the Immigration Service said on Wednesday.

But Mrs Clwyd, who visited the prison with Mrs Morgan and proposed the debate in the Equality of Opportunity committee, said they were being treated "like unconvicted prisoners."

'Locked up'

"They are held in cells," she said. "They are locked up for usually 12 hours a day.

"They are in a prison regime and therefore they are treated as other prisoners would be treated."

During a recent visit to the jail, prison officers told the MPs the immigrants were being introduced to drugs by other in-mates, she said.

Mrs Clwyd added: "They were also being taught, so they alleged, how to forge credit cards."

We saw people - that is not a good enough way to treat people who are fleeing persecution."

Ann Clwyd MP
Cardiff Prison hit the headlines earlier this year when asylum seekers handcuffed when they were taken to hospital for tuberculosis tests.

Mrs Clwyd said it shocked the area.

"We saw people - asylum seekers - caged, and, in the year 2001, that is not a good enough way to treat people who are fleeing persecution."

End of policy

But she said she had no criticism of the prison staff.

In reply, Home Officer Minister Angela Eagle said the Government was looking to end the use of prisons as soon as practicable.

Reverend Aled Edwards of Cardiff Asylum Seekers Network said discussed the matter with the National Assembly on Wednesday.

He said: "There was inonimity in civic society in Wales and assembly members themselves that the Home Office shouldn't do this to people, that Wales doesn't treat people like this.

"We wanted the assembly to convey that with considerable strength and the impression we came away with is that they are more than willing to do so.

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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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