March 5, 2022
A woman detained and tortured for eight years in Iran has warned that the UK’s asylum offshoring plan could lead to refugees facing child and sexual abuse.
The British Home Office’s Nationality and Borders Bill is a significant overhaul of Britain’s asylum system, and among proposals in the bill is the introduction of offshore process centers for asylum seekers.
Nasrin Parvaz told The Independent: “Where people will be taken and locked up while their asylum claims are processed, this offshore policy, like the Australian model, will result in child and sexual abuse.
“Imagine women hidden in offshore prison-like facilities while they wait for a decision on their asylum claim. And we know that it might take more than 10 years for a person to receive their decision.”
The bill is in the late stages before it becomes law, and earlier this week the House of Lords amended it to remove some controversial elements, including the planned ability for ministers to secretly strip Brits of their citizenship.
But ministers still appear to hope they can establish offshore asylum processing centers — despite every country so far mooted as a location publicly distancing themselves from the plan.
Parvaz’s concerns were backed by Sile Reynolds, of the NGO Freedom from Torture, who warned that sexual and child abuse “were rife in offshore processing sites” set up by the Australian government.
Parvaz spent eight years behind bars in Iran’s notorious Evin prison where she said the torture she was subjected to ultimately caused her to become paralyzed.
“My torturers wanted information about my friends, their names, and addresses. They used bastinado, which involves hitting the soles of the feet with a cable. I was tortured till I was paralyzed.
“In one incident they bashed my head against a wall, and as a result, I became epileptic. That hitting caused a tumor to grow inside my head which was extracted in 2012,” she added.
While she was not subjected to sexual harassment while imprisoned, her cellmate was, she said, adding that she met young girls and women who had been raped.
“After being locked in prison, your mental health never recovers,” Parvaz, who was released from jail in 1990, said.
“Your scars won’t go away. I remember friends who were executed. I heard the shotguns when they were taken for execution. They took some prisoners to watch the executions.”
During a House of Lords session, various peers expressed concerns that other countries may not have as stringent human rights protections as the UK, and as such people seeking refuge in Britain should not be sent overseas.
They voted to remove the offshore processing clause from the bill, and those changes will be voted upon in the House of Commons soon.
A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “This government is reforming our country’s approach to illegal entry to the UK and asylum by making the tough decisions to end the overt exploitation of our laws and UK taxpayers, while helping those in need come through safe and legal routes.”