Protection FROM refugees

October 12, 2004

Written by Harmit Athwal

Detention in Europe, published this week, by the Jesuit Refugee Service in Europe criticises European refugee policies as ‘repressive and restrictive’, and moving from the ‘protection of refugees’ to ‘protection from refugees’.

The report which aims to achieve ‘freedom, security and justice not only for citizens of Europe, but also for refugees and migrants in Europe’, is critical of the detention of asylum seekers which it finds ‘takes on the characteristics of criminal incarceration’ which in turn results in ‘significant emotional, physical and mental health problems for detainees.’

Effects of detention

The detention of asylum seekers, states the report, criminalises people who have not committed a crime, causes unnecessary harm and injustice and has an adverse effect on the morals of society as it normalises exclusion and administrative imprisonment of a part of the society and provokes racism and xenophobia.

It also finds that post-September 11 ‘domestic security is used more and more as a reason to detain refugees’. And that ‘criminal and administrative law can and should address the problem of threats to national security and public order without criminalizing innocent refugees and migrants.’

Detention can often exceed reasonable time limits and alternative methods of assuring a person’s presence during proceedings are often ignored or not considered.

The report recommends that detainees should not be held with those convicted of criminal offences and that certain vulnerable groups (e.g. children, pregnant women, those with mental health, special physical needs) should never be detained. Finally, it calls on European governments not to use detention as a deterrent.

Related links

Full text of Detention in Europe (pdf file, 1203 kb)

Jesuit Refugee Service – Europe

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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