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Britain's shameful and disgraceful treatment of its refugees

Ignore the pious, pompous words of Britain's PM, David Cameron - how it is the UK does things things humanely and with compassion - and read how what is supposed to be a civilised First world country treats its refugees.    Shameful and disgraceful.....

"Children forced to sleep on a concrete floor, patients with diarrhoea denied access to showers, trafficking victims locked up without food, a naked woman allegedly beaten in a detention centre: this is how government officials are accused of treating asylum seekers in 2016. And it’s not in war-torn Libya or cash-strapped Lebanon, but in Britain.

A new report accuses officials of gross negligence or abuse in their treatment of asylum seekers. Written by the chief inspector of prisons, the study finds that hundreds of asylum seekers, including those from Syria, were held in “wholly unacceptable” conditions on the floor of a freight shed in Kent.

Separately, the Home Office is investigating claims that a woman at the Yarl’s Wood detention centre was filmed being dragged naked by a group of asylum officers, and punched twice.

A campaign just launched by Women for Refugee Women, highlighting the incarceration of dozens of pregnant women in Yarl’s Wood, suggests that the callous treatment of people in the centre is not an isolated incident.

Having reported from most of the flashpoints of the refugee crisis over the past year, this isn’t the first time I’ve read about or witnessed this kind of treatment. In detention centres in Libya, one of the 18 countries I visited last year along the migration trail, I saw hundreds of failed asylum seekers – some of them pregnant – crammed into squalid cells with no access to sanitation. Many alleged they’d been beaten, and some said they had witnessed rape.

I had expected to see such desperate scenes in Libya. It is a war-ravaged country run by dozens of militias. It lacks a functioning state, and what institutions are left have few resources to look after asylum seekers, who are often arrested on an ad hoc basis.

While Britain’s humanitarian record has never been particularly clean, it is still shocking to read of Libyan-style treatment – of pregnant women locked up with little legal recourse, of naked women allegedly manhandled, and of children sleeping in their wet clothes in dirty containers – on British shores. Any country is capable of depravity. But unlike Libya, Britain – with its huge resources, stability and administrative capacity – has no excuse.

This is just the latest example of Britain stooping to the level of failing countries in its response to the greatest humanitarian challenge of our times. And yet the alleged inability to provide adequate care to asylum seekers landing in Kent, or locked up in Yarl’s Wood, masks what is perhaps a much deeper ethical lapse: the failure to resettle significant numbers of refugees directly from the Middle East, and the expectation that Middle Eastern countries should instead shoulder the refugee burden themselves.

Britain has promised to take in just 4,000 refugees a year for the next five years, on the basis that the country – with a population of around 65 million – cannot absorb any more foreigners. Instead, Britain expects countries such as Lebanon, with a population of just 4.5 million, to manage a million refugees.

To put Britain’s limp effort into further context: in the month that this decision was made – last September – more refugees landed on the Greek islands every single day than the UK will admit in the whole of 2016."


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