Refugees to be electronically tagged ‘as criminals’ under Home Office pilot scheme
Refugees crossing the Channel in small boats to reach the UK are expected to be electronically tagged – and prosecuted if they don’t comply – according to Home Office plans.
Campaigners and experts have accused ministers of taking a ‘draconian and punitive’ approach that will see people who have fled conflict and danger treated as ‘criminals’, and push the plan through despite ‘no concrete evidence’ that it will improve compliance levels.
A 12-month pilot will see some of those traveling to Britain via what the government calls ‘unnecessary and dangerous routes’ fitted with tags, potentially including those found to be victims of torture and trafficking, according to the new directives from the Ministry of the Interior.
If labeling requirements are not met, asylum seekers may be considered for detention and deportation, subject to administrative arrest or prosecuted, the document states.
Earlier this week, the government came under fire for its controversial deportation plan from Rwanda, with a flight planned to deport asylum seekers to central Africa blocked at the last minute after European judges intervened to human rights reasons.
It is understood that some of the 130 asylum seekers who were detained for removal on the flight will be among the first to be fitted with electronic tags, if and when they are released from detention.
Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “It is appalling that this government intends to treat the men, women and children who have fled war, bloodshed and persecution like criminals. .
“This draconian and punitive approach not only shows no compassion for the very vulnerable; nor will it do anything to deter those desperate for safety in the UK.
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘We will keep as many people in custody as the law allows, but when a court orders that a person who is to be on Tuesday’s flight be released, we will mark if necessary.”
The guidelines state that those who are marked will be required to co-operate with any arrangements specified by the Home Office to “detect and record by electronic means” their presence at “a location at specified times, for periods of time specified”.
It then clarifies that the beacon may come with one or more other conditions, including a curfew or an “inclusion or exclusion zone (requirement to remain in a specified area or not to enter it)” .
Social workers will need to consider a number of factors when deciding whether it is appropriate to mark an individual, including medical evidence suggesting that it would seriously harm their health, if an allegation of torture has been accepted by the Home Office or a court, or if the individual has been found to be a victim of modern slavery.
But the guidelines go on to state that these factors “are not [themselves] prohibit the imposition of such a condition”, adding: “In many cases, even where there is evidence in favor of the removal of electronic monitoring, on the whole, it may still be appropriate to maintain electronic monitoring in reason of other relevant factors”.
Dr Monish Bhatia, a senior lecturer in criminology at Birkbeck University in London, who has conducted research into the use of electronic tags on asylum seekers, called the Home Office plan an ‘extreme measure’ .
“Electronic tagging is highly intrusive, and research evidence strongly suggests that migrants who are subjected to this technology experience it as a form of punishment,” he said.
“Tags are just as dehumanizing, degrading and confining as detention centers. In my research, migrants who were tagged developed symptoms of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and a general deterioration in mental health.
He added: ‘The Home Office has provided no concrete evidence to support their account of the risk of flight, or to substantiate the need for or effectiveness of the tag, or anything to show that the tags enable individuals to comply with immigration rules better than any non-intrusive and humane alternatives to detention.
“It’s a pure waste of taxpayers’ money, which can be redirected to more productive use.”
Maria Thomas, of Duncan Lewis Solicitors, which represents a number of people detained before the failed Rwandan flight, said the tagging pilot was ‘very concerning’ and appeared to be designed to ‘further demonize vulnerable asylum seekers arriving in the UK”. in a small boat.
“The policy is vague and provides no guidance on how representations will be considered, or on what criteria, and raises serious concerns about the general treatment of vulnerable people, including victims of torture and trafficking. “, she added.
The Home Office has not confirmed which asylum seekers will be included in the pilot, but The Independent understands that people will not be tagged immediately upon arriving in Britain in small boats.
In the guidelines, the department says tagging will only be applied where its application does not violate an individual’s human rights under the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention on Human Rights. ‘man.
Following the grounding of Tuesday’s flight, Home Secretary Priti Patel insisted the plan to deport asylum seekers to central Africa would continue, saying: “Many of those who have removed from this flight will be placed on the next”.