UK detains too many people for too long, say MPs

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03 Mar 2015

A cross-party group of MPs and Peers has concluded that the Government’s use of immigration detention is ‘disproportionate and inappropriate’ following an eight month Inquiry.

The findings come in a report published today following a joint Inquiry into the use of immigration detention in the UK by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Refugees and the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Migration.

The panel, which included a former Cabinet Minister, a former Chief Inspector of Prisons, and a former Law Lord, concluded that the enforcement-focused culture of the Home Office means that official guidance, which states that detention should be used sparingly and for the shortest possible time, is not being followed, resulting in too many instances of unnecessary detention.

The report recommends that the Government uses alternatives to detention and also calls on the next Government to introduce a maximum time limit of 28 days on the length of time anyone can be locked up in immigration detention.

Chair of the Inquiry panel Sarah Teather MP said: "As a panel, we have concluded that the current system is expensive, ineffective and unjust. We are calling the next Government to learn from the alternatives to detention that focus on engagement with individuals in their communities, rather than relying on enforcement and deprivation of liberty."

Over 30,000 people entered immigration detention last year alone. 13,636 of them were asylum seekers; people who had fled here seeking refuge from the most unimaginable violence and persecution.

For asylum seekers in Britain, the fear of being detained is a very real one. It could happen to them at any time, for no obvious reason. Around half of asylum seekers will find themselves in detention at some point in the process.

Refugee Council Chief Executive Maurice Wren said: "Today a bright light has been shone into the darkest corners of the British immigration system and it has revealed some unpleasant secrets. Quite simply, the British Government is detaining too many people for too long.

"In the current system, asylum seekers who have done nothing wrong find themselves arbitrarily placed behind bars, on the say so of Home Office civil servants, for one primary reason: because it’s politically expedient.

"Ministers must take this opportunity to pursue wholesale reform and abandon the existing structure of immigration detention which has been shown to be grossly inefficient, hugely expensive and in direct contradiction of our most cherished British values of justice, liberty and compassion."

Read the full report here.