After protest, Boris Johnson defends 24/7 electronic monitoring of asylum seekers

The guidelines require case workers to consider a range of factors when deciding whether an individual should be electronically tagged, including whether a claim of torture has been accepted by the UK Home Office.

But the guidance goes on to say that such a factor “in itself does not prohibit the imposition of such a condition”, adding that “it may still be appropriate to maintain electronic monitoring due to other relevant factors”.

People designated for screening will be tagged when released on bail and released, officials said.

The possible tracing of people who have survived torture or other government abuse has infuriated some refugee lawyers in particular.

“The amount of suffering that can be inflicted on someone who has survived torture or is mentally ill far outweighs the very minimal benefits to the government,” said Sue Willman, human rights lawyer and chair of the Human Rights Committee at The Law. Society, a British legal group. “The person is effectively monitored 24/7 – while they are on the toilet, while they are in bed.”

She called the measure “completely disproportionate” in terms of damage, citing a recent government figure that “only 1 percent of people released on bail actually go into hiding”.

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The prime minister said he was confident his government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda was legal, despite a European court order, a decision that Johnson described as a “weird last-minute hiccup”. British Home Secretary Priti Patel accused the court of being politically motivated.

The Interior Ministry declined to provide the exact number of asylum seekers who have been assigned electronic tags so far. A spokesman said the 130 people at one point at risk of being on the Rwanda flight could fall “in the scope” of the program.

“The government is not deterred as we make plans for the next flight to Rwanda,” the spokesman said in a statement. “We will keep as many people in custody as the law allows, but if a court orders that a person who will be on the run be released on Tuesday, we will tag them where necessary.”

According to an analysis of government data from the Press Association, the number of people crossing the English Channel – the busiest shipping route in the world – to reach Britain this year has passed 11,000. That is more than double compared to the same period last year.

On the same day that the scheduled flight to Rwanda was grounded, 444 people made the crossing, the most since April.

The United Nations refugee agency, citing data from the British government, said this month that “a clear majority” of people arriving in Britain by small boat should be considered refugees fleeing war and persecution. However, the British government has repeatedly referred to them as ‘migrants’, a claim the UN agency says is inconsistent with the government’s own data.

More than 28,000 people crossed the Channel in small boats last year, according to the British government. At least 44 people died or went missing in the attempt.

In November, a dinghy traveling from France to Britain capsized, killing 27 people on board. It was the deadliest incident in the English Channel since the International Organization for Migration first began collecting data in 2014.

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