Report on a demonstration against a proposed bill requiring fingerprinting of all asylum seekers, and removing their right to housing and appeal.
On Saturday 21st November 1992, up to 4000 people marched through central London to demonstrate against the government's Asylum Bill. The march was organised by RAHCAR (Refugees Ad-Hoc Committee for Asylum Rights), an alliance of refugee community groups in Britain.
According to RAHCAR, "the government is trying to close all avenues to the UK for people fleeing persecution from the Third World". If the Asylum Bill becomes law:
-all asylum seekers including young children will be fingerprinted. Police and immigration officers will be able to arrest without warrant anybody who refuses. At present in the UK, only people who have been charged with an imprisonable offence are required to give their fingerprints.
-the right of homeless asylum seekers to housing will be taken away.
-asylum seekers will have very limited rights of appeal. Many will only have two days to make an appeal after being refused asylum, and they may have to appeal without even seeing the evidence which the Home Office used to make its decision to refuse.
-the right of appeal will be abolished altogether for visitors to the UK. Visitors have been refused entry into Britain to attend weddings, funerals, and other family occasions, or as tourists. Last year 10,000 visitors appealed against the refusal of their visa, and one in five won their appeal. If the Asylum Bill becomes law, this will not be possible.
Even without the Asylum Bill things are getting worse for asylum seekers in the UK. The government has promised to build an extra 300 detention places for asylum seekers. The Immigration Act 1971 gave the authorities power of unlimited detention for people whose claims for asylum are under consideration, or who have been refused. In 1991, two asylum seekers died in detention.
contact: RAHCAR, 365 Brixton Road, London SW9 7DB.
European Counter Network, December 1992. Taken from the Practical History website.