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Thursday, February 03, 2005

Calculating BritainĀ“s torture quota

Discussion document for the shadow cabinet. Subject: delivering quota policies for asylum-seekers

Tory policy is to limit the number of people coming to the UK as asylum-seekers, and this requires that any future Conservative government fix a quota for each year. Outlined here are a number of options on how to make that objective achievable. Some of these measures may be illegal; however, legality has not been an issue for the Labour government.

Option one: Since asylum-seekers are fleeing torture, repression and persecution, we could redefine torture and raise the benchmark for suffering. This would disallow and deter claims from casual asylum-seekers. Psychological torture could be reclassified as "name-calling". Its victims would then have no need to flee from persecution, especially if they made a concerted effort in team sports - which would earn them the respect of their peers, rather than taunts and/or repeated death threats to friends and family. For example, a moderately funded project to teach netball in Burma could bring down asylum claims.

Further reclassification could define electro-shock torture as "alternative medicine". Should this proposal be adopted, physical beatings and humiliation/sexual humiliation would be reclassified as "working them hard".

The most extreme cases of torture result in death. Here, we cannot duck our international obligations: we propose that murdered asylum-seekers automatically be granted indefinite leave to remain.

However, we would recommend that relatives and friends of the deceased be denied the right to attend the funeral to clamp down on bogus mourners, many of whom grieve for economic reasons.

Option two: Critics have argued that it is impossible for a UK government to fix a figure for the number of people who will be tortured each year. We disagree. A suitable and attainable figure for the number of torture victims each year could be negotiated in advance with the torturers. This could be done on a bilateral basis, though multilateral methods would be preferable. Indeed, once targets have been set we could introduce torture trading within the torturing community. Thus, we could give a country with high torture requirements the opportunity to buy torture credits from a country with low torture rates. This would reward countries with low torture rates with an income that could then be used to bribe its internal opposition groups, rather than physically harming them and running the risk of increasing the national torture rate.

This method would also put financial pressure on the high-torturing country to ensure that only essential torture took place, which would cut surplus torture and avoid what the EU would call a "torture mountain".

Option three: This may be called the Charles Clarke option: deport the asylum-seeker to his or her country of origin, having negotiated a promise from the government of that country that it will not torture or kill the asylum-seeker on return. Obviously, we would need to obtain promises from governments as well as individual torturers; these promises should be witnessed and verified by a credible third party with good standing within the community - possibly the best netball player from the local school (preferably secondary).

At first glance, this idea seems to lack merit. However, it does not follow logically that because someone is a torturer they must be more inclined to lie than a non-torturing person - though we do acknowledge that an individual's propensity to place electro-shock batons in other human beings' rectums could indicate a blurring of moral boundaries. We therefore propose that any guarantee elicited from a torturing state should be accompanied by human rights training, carried out by the British army, within that country's penal institutes.

Option four: Making asylum-seekers apply for refugee status before they arrive in the UK would deter a certain number of false claims. However, people under threat and persecution cannot be expected to make their claims from the countries that are persecuting them. We recommend that applicants make their claims from a third country or region, somewhere that could guarantee their safety from external threat and at the same time serve as a measure of their desperation. We therefore suggest that the best place from which asylum-seekers could make their claims would be Guantanamo Bay.

Option five: It has been argued that the number of asylum-seekers in Britain is undermining tradition and a sense of Britishness. In an effort to revive traditional British life, and solve the problem of asylum-seekers, we propose that they be bound and gagged, have their pockets filled with stones and thrown in the river. If they float, they are bogus.


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