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Asylum worker: ‘The government treats vulnerable people like criminals’

Emily Robertson is a community activist in Swansea who works with asylum seekers. She spoke to Socialist Worker

Issue No. 2125

‘The Home Office isn’t a just or fair organisation. The law is constantly changing, which makes it almost impossible to work with.

When people arrive in Britain they go through immigration. People either get sent to detention or to a dispersal area, which Swansea became in 2002. Some people never get that far­ – there’s a fast track system when they try to get you out of the country in seven days.

They make you give a statement as to why you’re here, which brings all sorts of complications. If people are fleeing torture or rape, it is very traumatic and personal to talk to a foreigner about these things.

The nationalities of asylum seekers reflect what is happening in the world. We have seen a rise in people from Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan because of the “war on terror”. There are also lots of people from the Congo – there has been conflict there for years.

In a lot of cases British foreign policy is responsible for people seeking refuge.

The conditions in the detention centres are horrific. They are like high security prisons.

When I went to visit my friends I saw that the only meal was chicken and chips. There was no halal food.

The change in energetic, bright children was dramatic – they were pale, thin, and withdrawn. They had developed a skin infection and had started wetting the bed.

There are no toys, nowhere to play. They are treated as criminals, not as asylum seekers or as children.’

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Article information

Tue 28 Oct 2008, 18:37 GMT
Issue No. 2125
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