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Europe rights commissioner concerned over aspects of UK asylum policies

[JURIST] Council of Europe (COE) [official website] Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg [official profile] expressed concern with several UK asylum and immigration procedures in a memorandum [text] released Friday. The memorandum was the result of visits by Hammarberg to the UK last February and March, which included visits to the Colnbrook and Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centres [corporate websites]. Hammarberg flagged the UK's Detained Fast Track program, under which administrative and judicial proceedings are aimed at an accelerated determination of refugee status applications which are proved to be unfounded. He said the process conflicts with the European Convention on Human Rights [text] and the established case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website], and that the acceleration of immigration adjudication proceedings violates rule of law principles in the interest of meeting time objectives set by Parliament. He recommended that the UK "consider regulating this issue by introducing special legislation fully in compliance with the standards laid down by the European Convention on Human Rights," and that the UK Border Agency [official website] "adopt a more cautious and flexible approach towards the 'Fast Track Processes' and its announced policy of making and enforcing the majority of asylum decisions within six months." Hammarberg also recommended that the UK enter into full compliance with Council Directive 2003/9/EC [text] on the minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers. BBC News has more.

Responding to Hammarberg's memorandum and recommendations, the UK Home Office [official website] said that only a small proportion of all asylum seekers, around ten percent of the total, are subject to the Detained Fast Track process, and insisted that "the operation of the Detained Fast Track process within existing time frames is reasonable and fair." The UK government also asserts in the memorandum that it is in full compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights, the ECHR case law, and that Council Directive 2003/9/EC is already considered to apply to immigration detention facilities in the UK.

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