The independent London newspaper

Detention for immigration purposes desperately needs oversight and regulation

06 December, 2018

Tulip Siddiq MP

• THIS week I launched a bill asking the government to end the indefinite detention of migrants and asylum seekers in the UK. I argued that the law needed urgent reform and proposed a 28-day maximum time-limit on detention for immigration purposes.

Co-sponsored by Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative MPs, it gained support from all corners of the commons. It echoed calls for a time-limit from two parliamentary inquiries, the UN, the Prisons Inspectorate, human rights campaigners and others.

It is my hope that the bill has highlighted a pressing issue, and that it will finally push the government into action. Each year around 30,000 people are detained under immigration powers in the UK. The vast majority are held in Immigration Removal Centres while home office officials process their cases.

These centres are prison-like, and detainees have few freedoms. But the lack of a time-limit to their detention is perhaps the cruellest part, meaning that innocent people can be held for days, weeks, months or years.

This has a profound impact even for those who are held for just days. One detainee interviewed by the Red Cross said that the experience was “mental torture”. Others have spoken of the pain of not knowing when they will see their families again.

The home office states that detention should be used only for a “reasonable” amount of time. But the reality is that people can be held for years. The longest stay in detention is 1,514 days. Each year around 200 people are held for over 12 months.

Indefinite detention takes a huge toll on those who are detained, and it is very costly. Since 2010, the home office has spent over £523.5million on immigration detention.

An analysis by Matrix Evidence suggests that the timely release of detainees would save £345million over five years. Detention is used excessively and – as the detention of two members of the Windrush generation shows – often mistakenly. The system is in desperate need of more oversight and better regulation.

Labour, Hampstead & Kilburn


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