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by MONITOR
THE nagging suspicion that Britain is not the safe haven it once was for victims of oppression in their own country was borne out by an independent report published yesterday. The report by the Independent Asylum Commission, set up by John Reid when he was Home Secretary, says that the treatment of asylum-seekers “falls seriously below the standards to be expected of a humane and civilised society”. It describes the asylum system as “marred by inhumanity” and, re-using John Reid's phrase, “not fit for purpose”; at the same time it praises some aspects of the Home Office's work and underlines how complex and burdensome it has become in recent years. One of the main criticisms concerns the “adversarial” approach taken by immigration officers at their initial meetings with asylum seekers who may still be confused and nervous after a difficult journey to Britain. It says that a “culture of disbelief” is often generated at the first interview and leads to applicants being detained unnecessarily while their case is under review, often for many months or even years. The Commission intends to publish a second report later in the year with recommendations for improving the existing system. The government will have to take its findings seriously -- it has consulted three former Home Secretaries, more than 100 non-governmental organisations and charities working with immigrants, 90 asylum-seekers, the police, local authorities and concerned citizens who attended consultation hearing in seven major cities.