The politics, personal issues and practical problems of asylum seekers were highlighted at a prestigious conference this week. The use of voice recognition measures to keep tabs on asylum seekers was one of the issues raised by Immigration Minister Tony McNulty MP, who was keynote speaker at The Refugee Council event.
Detention, decision-making and integration were top of the agenda at the gathering of experts to discuss the challenge of asylum policy. Other issued raised included the impact of asylum on services for children and the major concerns over the enforced destitution of asylum seekers and their families.
These issues will be discussed further at a second Refugee Council conference on 23 March in Birmingham, at which the keynote speaker will be Jeremy Oppenheim, Director of NASS, Home Office.
Mr McNulty told the sell-out conference that he aimed to lead the controversial debate about asylum away from the “media hysteria” that has often surrounded it in the past. He said that his starting point was that “immigration was good”, but added that an asylum system should be fair but robust when required.
Maeve Sherlock, Chief Executive of The Refugee Council, says she was delighted with the event:
“Tony McNulty took the time to come to the conference, listen to a range of views and engage in a debate, and for that we are really grateful to him. Inevitably we share his opinions on some issues, such as integration and the Gateway Project, while remaining concerned about others such as detention and destitution, about which we shall continue to campaign.
“A moving and passionate speech from Tim Baster from BID (Bail for Immigration Detainees) about the pain and emotional trauma caused to asylum seekers when they are detained summed up for a lot of us exactly why we are doing what we’re doing.
“That is why these Refugee Council conferences are so important. They give professionals, government officials and journalists the chance to hear the latest issues, but also to share opinions and good practice to ensure asylum seekers are being treated in the most efficient, humane way possible.’
On the issue of voice recognition, Maeve added: “We welcome the minister’s statement that he is actively considering alternatives to detention for asylum seekers such as voice recognition. The sooner the government introduces more effective and humane alternatives to locking people up for claiming the human right of asylum, the better.”
Notes to Editors
“Working with change, meeting the challenge: An asylum policy and legislation update” was held on Thursday 9 March 2006 at Regent’s College, Regent’s Park, Inner Circle, London NW1 4NS.
A second conference will be held at Aston Villa Football Club on Thursday 23 March.
Authoritative, comprehensive and inspiring, The Refugee Council’s conferences are renowned as a one-stop shop for the latest discussion on the ever-changing issue of asylum policy and legislation. Aimed at journalists, government, the police and professionals in the legal, health, social services and community sectors, the conferences raise topics and demand answers on imperative questions.
The story was also widely reported in the media: