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Freeing Asylum Seekers from Oakington

Relayed by Cambridge IMC | 11.11.2003 11:01 | Anti-racism | Migration | Cambridge

Currently asylum-seekers in Oakington who dare to challenge the labelling of their asylum application as "clearly unfounded" by way of Judicial Review are being "slow tracked" to discourage others from following their example. Some are being locked up for months awaiting a full hearing of their case.

Concerned individuals in Cambridge have therefore set up the Cambridge Bail Circle. The Bail Circle aims to attract individuals from the area and link them up with Oakington detainees identified by lawyers as having arguable cases. The individuals are asked to meet the detainee, attend court with them for a "bail hearing", and stand as "surety" for the them. The asylum seeker is then at least freed from detention whilst they await the review, although conditions are imposed.

Since the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act of 2002, the situation at Oakington has changed dramatically. Originally the mis-named "Oakington Reception Centre", six miles outside of Cambridge, was opened to process "straightforward" asylum claims in a "fast track" - the idea was that the claim could be decided within a 7-10 day period. This is predominately determined by nationality and today the fast track list contains 65 countries, including many with well-documented problems of state persecution of all, or parts, of their populations. However, the new Act went even further. It provided for a statutory presumption that claims from the nationals of certain countries were to be regarded as "clearly unfounded". The implication of having a "clearly unfounded" certificate attached to your refusal was that you were deprived of a right of appeal from within the United Kingdom. So now asylum seekers whose claims are deemed clearly unfounded are returned to their country of origin without the safeguard of judicial oversight. Many will be persecuted on return.

Proposals now being put before parliament even remove the possibility of challenge by way of Judicial Review. Yet records from the Refugee Legal Centre show that they were routinely winning around 30% of cases appealed from Oakington - a reflection on the poor quality of the original decision-making.

The Cambridge Bail Circle is conducting some training for would-be sureties in the afternoon of Saturday 6th December at Oakington itself. The training will be essential for anyone thinking of standing as a surety and will cover in detail all aspects of what is expected. Many people who have stood as a surety for an Immigration detainee will attest to the fact that it is one of the most fulfilling things one can do for another human being. If you would like to be involved in the training you will need to book a place before 4th December as the training will take place within Oakington and arrangements will need to be made for your entry into the centre. For further details email Adrian Matthews or write to him c/o the Refugee Legal Centre, Oakington IRC, Oakington Barracks, Longstanton, Cambridgeshire, CB4 4EJ.

This is an edited extract of an article by Adrian Matthews, (Regional Manager of the Refugee Legal Centre) that will appear in Issue 2 of Campeace Forum.

Relayed by Cambridge IMC