David Blunkett's new plans for shaking up Britain's asylum system may have suffered an immediate setback in the House of Lords on Thursday but on the same day he won an important High Court judgement on another aspect of his immigration policies. Liberty, the human rights group, brought a legal challenge on behalf of six Czech Roma people who had been refused entry to Britain after being screened by UK immigration officials at Prague airport. Liberty argued that such screening at the point of departure of wouldbe asylum seekers was disciminatory and against the international refugee convention and human rights laws; it said that there were no safeguards in place to ensure that there was no racial stereotyping of profiling by the immigration staff.
The High Court judge ruled that the preclearance checks were legal under international law and were no more or less objectionable than a visa control system even though they clearly stopped mainly Czech Roma people from boarding flights to the UK to claim asylum. Welcoming the judgement, the Home Office said that it was planning to extend the system of screening by UK immigration officers at point of departure airports to other Eastern European countries.
In the House of Lords the Government's proposals for large centres for refugees in country areas was defeated. Several speakers said that to put traumatised and frightened asylumseekers in remote locations would create problems for local residents as well as for the immigrants themselves.