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UK Border Agency 'Mistreat, Trick & Humiliate' Asylum Seekers

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An immigration case worker claims UK Border Agency staff in Cardiff routinely mistreat, trick and humiliate asylum seekers.

Louise Perrett, 29, worked at the UK Border Agency office in Cardiff for three and a half months last summer.  On her first day at work, one manager said of asylum seekers: "If it was up to me I'd take them all outside and shoot them."  Another told her: "No one in this office is very PC.  In fact everyone is the exact opposite."

Ms. Perrett's also alleges staff, including supervisors:

  1. kept a toy gorilla, a "grant monkey", which they placed "as a badge of shame" on the desk of anyone who approved an asylum application;

  2. conducted interviews without lawyers, independent witnesses or tape recorders;

  3. determined the authenticity of North Korean asylum seekers by asking whether they "ate chop suey";

  4. made boys forcibly conscripted as child soldiers in Africa lie down on the floor to demonstrate how they shot at people "in the bush" (again, supposedly to determine their credibility);

  5. advised her to refuse difficult asylum claims and "let a tribunal sort it out";

  6. deported a Congolese woman and her children, even though they had the right to remain in the UK (when Ms. Perrett approached the legal department about the case, they said "umbongo, umbongo, they kill them in the Congo");

  7. dealt with cases seriously only when MPs took an interest; &

  8. gave her the power to grant or refuse applications and detain adult and child asylum seekers for periods of up to 28 days after only five weeks' training.

Ms. Perrett told the :

"I witnessed general hostility, rudeness and indifference towards asylum seekers.  It was completely horrific.  I highlighted my concerns to senior managers but I was just laughed at.

"I signed the Official Secrets Act, just like my colleagues did, and took legal advice before deciding to speak out publicly.

"I had to speak up because nobody else was saying anything and major changes are needed at senior management level."

Matthew Coates, head of immigration at the UK Border Agency, disputes this.  But he has so far declined to respond to Ms. Perrett's specific allegations.  "The UK Border Agency expects the highest levels of integrity and behaviour from all our staff," he told .  "We take all allegations of inappropriate behaviour extremely seriously."

Meanwhile, Home affairs select committee chairman Keith Vaz expressed his shock at the allegations:

"I'm deeply concerned by a number of ex-UK Border Agency workers who have spoken out about flaws in the points-based system and behaviour such as this.  I will be writing to the chief executive, Lin Homer, to discover what steps are being taken to remedy this culture of disbelief and discrimination."

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