Asylum seekers suing UK over illegal detention

Asylum seekers suing UK over illegal detention
Asylum seekers have launched a group legal action against the British government over allegations of unlawful detention between 2014 and 2017. (File/AFP)
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Updated 25 October 2020

Asylum seekers suing UK over illegal detention

Asylum seekers suing UK over illegal detention
  • They include Iranian, Sudanese victims of torture
  • Thousands of other asylum seekers in Britain could be entitled to make similar claims

LONDON: Asylum seekers have launched a group legal action against the British government over allegations of unlawful detention between 2014 and 2017.
Members of the group, which includes Sudanese and Iranian victims of torture, have demanded compensation after they were arrested and detained by the UK Border Force under Home Office guidance and the Dublin III regulation, which states that refugees must claim asylum in the first EU country in which they arrive.
The Dublin III regulation used to justify the deportations can be used only if there is a significant risk of the asylum seeker absconding and if their deportation is proportionate. 
The claimants include an Iranian national arrested as a political prisoner and tortured in his home country, and a Sudanese national who was arrested and tortured following charges of loyalty to an opposition party.
Their lawyer Waleed Sheikh, from London firm Leigh Day, said: “Many of our clients are vulnerable individuals who were forced to flee their countries not out of choice, but due to the most horrific experiences which most of us in the UK will fortunately never witness, let alone experience.
Sheikh added: “Having made the brave and perilous journey from across the world, in the hope of finding safety and a secure future in a free country, they were instead put into detention centers.”
He said it is likely that thousands of other asylum seekers in Britain are entitled to make similar claims, “but it is difficult to trace them. Some are now abroad and many do not speak English. And there is no obligation for the Home Office to contact those who were held illegally.”
The Home Office may have to pay between £8,000 ($10,400) and £10,000 for each month a claimant was held.
The payouts could increase based on factors such as a claimant’s health during unlawful detention.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “The individuals in question were only detained to facilitate removal to a safe European country. We took immediate corrective action in March 2017 to ensure that we remain able to detain those in a similar position, who we determine are at risk of absconding.”


Charity rescue ship carrying 373 African migrants docks in Sicily

The Ocean Viking ship seen from the Italian island of Lampedusa, Sicily. (AFP/File Photo)
The Ocean Viking ship seen from the Italian island of Lampedusa, Sicily. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 4 min 13 sec ago

Charity rescue ship carrying 373 African migrants docks in Sicily

The Ocean Viking ship seen from the Italian island of Lampedusa, Sicily. (AFP/File Photo)
  • The Ocean Viking vessel had been waiting in heavy swells to get clearance from authorities
  • Many migrants recounted stories of alleged abuses suffered in Libya

ROME: A charity rescue ship carrying 373 migrants picked up off the Libyan coast has been allowed to dock in the Italian port of Augusta, in Sicily.

The Ocean Viking vessel had been waiting in heavy swells to get clearance from authorities for its passengers to disembark.

The migrants — who included 165 children of which 21 were aged under four — had been plucked from four packed dinghies and where mostly from south Saharan countries in Africa. They had told rescuers they were fleeing from camps in Libya where they feared for their lives.

Many recounted stories of alleged abuses suffered in Libya, with some having already attempted sea crossings to Europe only to be intercepted and transported back to the Libyan camps.

One of those rescued, Kylian, 19, from Mali, told Arab News: “In Libya we were all crammed into one home and we weren’t free to go where we wanted. I was out when bandits came, and I wanted to run to warn the others in the camp. When they fired, I fell to the ground. They thought that I was dead, and they just left me there.”

The man said he was wounded but could not access medical care in the camp. “I thought I was going to die. This happens all the time in Libya. I was finally treated because a friend took me to a Cameroonian woman who was doctor.”

The teenager was speaking on the phone of a volunteer from the maritime humanitarian organization SOS Mediterranee. All the migrants will be transferred to a quarantine ship after being tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Luisa Albera, rescue coordinator on the Ocean Viking, told Arab News: “From the survivors, we have heard gruesome tales of the inhumane treatment they had to endure in Libya.

“The last three days at sea have been extremely hard for those people, as the weather has worsened rapidly. Several babies and small children were on board; they have particularly suffered from seasickness.”

She pointed out that more than 1,200 people had died last year while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

“We are relieved that the 373 people on board our ship managed to reach a safe port, but the international community must do more to save people in the Mediterranean. Too many lives depend on this.

“EU member states must find a sustainable solution and set up a rapid disembarkation mechanism, supporting European coastal states such as Italy and Malta and working to respect international maritime law on our common coasts to the south,” Albera said.

Prior to the Ocean Viking being given permission to dock in Augusta, a heavily pregnant woman was taken from the ship to the Italian island of Lampedusa by an Italian coastguard vessel.

Italy has repeatedly impounded charity vessels for safety violations, a policy that charities claim is often a tactic to keep them from performing rescues.

The Ocean Viking is currently the only charity ship operating off Libya’s coast, although Libyan coastguard ships are also patrolling, assisted by the EU, and have intercepted 300 migrants and returned them to Libya this month.