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24 July 2003 Edition

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British Minister Misleading Public

Sinn Féin Representative Conor Murphy has accused the British Home Office Minister Fiona McTaggart of deliberately misrepresenting the situation regarding people claiming asylum who are being held in Maghaberry prison. His remarks come after an interview on last Wednesday morning, 16 July, on Good Morning Ulster, when the minister claimed that only 10 Asylum Seekers are held at any one time in the prison.

Maghaberry prison is currently in the media spotlight for another reason - the forced integration of republican and loyalist prisoners.

Murphy said, "This morning British Home Office Minister Fiona McTaggart justified the failure to provide accommodation for those seeking asylum in the six counties on grounds of economics. She defended the practice of interning asylum seekers in Maghaberry claiming that there are never more than ten people detained there at any one time".

Murphy insisted that this claim was simply lies.

"I was in touch with the Refugee Action Group this morning and they confirmed that last months figures show 18 asylum seekers interned in Maghaberry including two pregnant women and two children," he said. "As the Minister responsible for these people I can only presume that Ms McTaggart was aware of this figure when she made her remarks this morning.

"It would seem that the Minister is deliberately misrepresenting the situation regarding asylum seekers held in prison here. I recently visited some of those being interned in Maghaberry and I would restate the Sinn Féin position that there is no possible justification for holding people who have not committed any offence within a prison regime."



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