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Detention Inquiry Panel Members Statement on the Immigration Act 2016 becoming law

Last week the Immigration Act 2016 received Royal Assent. In response to the provisions contained within the Act, the assurances made by Ministers, and the concerns raised in both Houses, members of the cross-party panel of the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Use of Immigration Detention have made the following statement:

“Just over a year ago, we concluded that the UK detains too many people, for too long a time, and that in far too many cases people are detained completely unnecessarily.  In our report, we recommended that there should be a time limit of 28 days placed on the length of time anyone can be held in immigration detention, that detention should always be a last resort and that pregnant women should never be detained under any circumstances.

“As the Immigration Bill made its way through both Houses of Parliament, we tabled and supported amendments reflecting the recommendations made in our report. We would like to thank Ministers for their engagement with us on these issues, in particular the Immigration Minister James Brokenshire and Lord Michael Bates, as well as those other parliamentarians who supported calls for reform.

“We are disappointed that the Government continues in its opposition to an overall time limit, despite the growing evidence that indefinite detention has an extremely negative mental health impact, costs more to the public purse and is less effective than alternative immigration enforcement models. We are also disappointed that the Government has not accepted our case for an absolute exclusion of pregnant women from detention. However, we welcome the recognition of the need for automatic judicial oversight of immigration detention, as well as the introduction of a time limit for how long pregnant women can be detained.

“Stephen Shaw’s report following his review of the impact of detention on vulnerable people was published during the course of the Bill, and many of his findings and recommendations echoed those that we made. We note that the Government have said that they expect the reforms they have initiated in response to the Shaw report, as well as the amendments passed to the Immigration Act, will reduce the number of people in detention as well as the length of time people are detained, but we remain concerned that they may not produce the system and culture change that is needed. We also reiterate our recommendation that the Government should introduce a much wider range of alternatives to detention and call on the Home Office to commission research into best practice in this area.”

“In the weeks and months ahead we will be closely monitoring the implementation and impact of the Government’s reforms to ensure those expectations are met and we welcome the news that the Stephen Shaw will be asked to do a follow-up review. If they are not met, we will push for further legislative changes. We will continue to argue for a maximum time limit and for the absolute exclusion of pregnant women from detention, defending the United Kingdom’s proud tradition of upholding justice and the right to liberty.”

Paul Blomfield MP (Chair of the APPG on Migration, Vice-Chair of the Inquiry into the Use of Immigration Detention in the United Kingdom)

David Burrowes MP

Richard Fuller MP

Baroness Sally Hamwee

Baroness Ruth Lister

Lord David Ramsbotham

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UN Committee back British Parliamentarians’ call for a time limit on immigration detention

Parliamentarians have called on the Government to take action following a recommendation of a UN Committee that a time limit on the length of time an individual can be held in immigration detention should be introduced. This echoes the call made by a cross-party group of parliamentarians earlier this year, who recommended that no one should be detained in immigration detention for longer than 28 days.

The recommendation was issued by the UN Human Rights Committee, a body of 18 international experts who monitor the implementation of the international covenant on civil and political rights, which was making its first review of Britain since 2008. In their report, the Committee said it “is concerned that no fixed time limit on the duration of detention in Immigration Removal Centres has been established and that individuals may be detained for prolonged periods. “

Earlier this year, a cross-party group of Parliamentarians published a report into immigration detention, in which they 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.

As well as calling for a 28 day time limit, they recommended that the UK government should learn from best practice abroad where alternatives to detention are used, which not only allow individuals to live in the community, but which also allow the government to maintain immigration control at a much lower cost to the state.

Three of the Parliamentarians who published the report, Conservatives David Burrowes and Richard Fuller and Labour MP Paul Blomfield, have secured a debate on the report in the House of Commons that will take place on 10 September.

Currently, the UK is the only EU country not to have an upper time limit on the length of time someone can be held in immigration detention.

Commenting on the UN recommendation, David Burrowes, Conservative MP for Enfield Southgate, said:

“It is very welcome that this UN Committee has backed our call for the Government to introduce a time limit on immigration detention. It was clear from our inquiry that the lack of a time limit has very serious mental health consequences for people who can find themselves locked up for months on end, if not years.

“While there is a need to properly control our borders, all those who enter our country should be treated with fairness and dignity. The UK Government should learn from other countries who detained far fewer people while having higher removal rates.”

Paul Blomfield, Labour MP for Sheffield Central, added:

“The UK is alone among EU states in detaining people indefinitely for immigration purposes. While Home Office policy states that detention should always be for the shortest possible time, in reality this is clearly not the case.

“The current system is expensive, ineffective and unjust. I urge the Government to respond positively to the UN Committee and our inquiry report.”

 

House of Commons to Debate Immigration Detention Inquiry Report

Members of Parliament will debate the report ot the All-Party Parliamentary Group Inquiry into the UK’s use of immigration detention on Thursday 10 September when the House of Commons returns after the summer recess.

The debate, which will last for three hours, was secured by three members of the detention inquiry panel – Richard Fuller MP, David Burrowes MP and Paul Blomfied MP – following an application to the Backbench Business Committee.

Appearing before the Backbench Business Committee to make the case for the debate, Richard Fuller raised the previous lack of parliamentary scrutiny of immigration detention. He told the committee that the detention inquriy panel found there had been a “lack of scrutiny of this particular area of immigration policy by Parliament. In the previous Parliament, many questions were raised and debates held on immigration and we had a flurry of immigration Bills through Parliament but there were only two debates specifically on immigration detention.”

Paul Blomfield added that the inquiry “had real strength in breadth and depth” with the panel including “a former Law Lord, a former Conservative Cabinet member and a former chief inspector of prisons.”

David Burrowes said that the debate would be very topical: “A debate would have great topicality and national interest, and it would also be timely and relevant because of the present Home Office review of conditions at Yarl’s Wood and the wider issues of immigration detention, which will be published in the autumn. That will be an important time for a wider debate about the principle and extent of immigration detention.”

The motion MPs will debate is:

That this House supports the recommendations of the report of the Joint Inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration, The Use of Immigration Detention in the United Kingdom; has considered the case for reform of immigration detention; and calls on the Government to respond positively to those recommendations.

The transcript of the Backbench Business Committee meeting is available on the parliament’s website: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmselect/cmbackben/ucbbc210715/ucbbc210715.htm

Immigration Detention inquiry report to be published on 3 March

A panel of cross-party MPs and Peers will tomorrow publish their report following an inquiry into the use of immigration detention in the United Kingdom.

The panel received written evidence submissions from 182 organisations and individuals and also held three oral evidence sessions, the transcripts from which are available here.

The report will be published at 0001 on Tuesday 3 March, and will be available on the inquiry’s website.

Parliamentary Inquiry into Immigration Detention to hold third oral evidence session on 18 November

The Parliamentary Inquiry into the use of Immigration Detention in the UK, hosted by the APPG on Refugees and the APPG on Migration, will hold its third oral evidence session on Tuesday 18 November 2014 at 10.10am in Committee Room 8, House of Commons.

The panel will hear evidence from:

At 10.10am:

  • Nick Hardwick, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons

At c.10.50am:

  • Tacko Mbengue, former immigration detainee
  • Aderonke Apata, former immigration detainee

At c.11.30pm:

  • Grant Mitchell, Director, International Detention Coalition
  • Dr Alice Edwards, Senior Legal Coordinator, United Nations Commissioner for Refugees

Panel Members:

  • Sarah Teather MP
  • Paul Blomfield MP
  • David Burrowes MP
  • Caroline Spelman MP
  • Jon Cruddas MP
  • Julian Huppert MP
  • Richard Fuller MP
  • Baroness Lister
  • Baroness Hamwee
  • Lord Ramsbotham
  • Lord Lloyd of Berwick

The above meeting is open to members of the public. It is advisable to allow about 20 minutes to pass through security checks. There is no system for the prior reservation of seats for the meeting. Members of the public enter via the Cromwell Green visitor entrance to Parliament.

For more information, please contact Jon Featonby on 020 7219 8147 or click here.

Updates on the inquiry can also be found via the APPG on Refugees twitter feed:@APPGRefugees.

Reminder: 1 October deadline for written evidence

The deadline for submitting written evidence to the inquiry is Wednesday 1 October. Information about how to submit your evidence is below.

SUBMITTING EVIDENCE

The inquiry invites written evidence from a broad range of stakeholders, including government representatives and civil servants, local authorities, charities, researchers, and voluntary organisations working with detainees and individual detainees, former detainees and families of detainees themselves. Evidence from people who have had direct personal experience of immigration detention is particularly welcomed. As such, the Committee encourages groups working with detainees to conduct their own oral and written evidence sessions in order to provide opportunities for people to tell their stories and to build their evidence on the basis of this direct input.

We recommend that submissions of evidence follow the guidelines below.

For those with direct experience of immigration detention, please include as much information as you can about:

• Your experiences of living in immigration detention, including the context and duration of your stay;
• The conditions in immigration detention, including your ability to access services such as legal advice, healthcare, pastoral support;
• Whether there were appropriate mechanisms to deal with any mental, physical or emotional issues you may have experienced prior to or during your time in detention;
• Any longer-term impacts of detention on you, your family and/or your wider community;
• Any other information about detention that you would like to share.

For all other respondents, please address some/all of the following questions, supporting your answers with examples and evidence where possible:

• What are your views on the current conditions within UK immigration detention centres, including detainees’ access to advice and services? Please highlight any areas where you think that improvements could be made.
• How far does the current detention system support the needs of vulnerable detainees, including pregnant women, detainees with a disability and young adults?
• What are the impacts of immigration detention on individuals, family and social networks, and wider communities?
• There is currently no time limit on immigration detention – in your view what are the impacts (if any) of this?
• Are the current arrangements for authorizing detention appropriate?
• What are the wider consequences of the current immigration detention system, including any financial and/or social implications?
• How effective are the current UK alternatives to detention (e.g. bail, reporting requirements)? Are viable alternatives to immigration detention in operation in other countries?

We understand that many of the organisations working with detainees are small and may be unable to provide comprehensive evidence on all points. We would welcome your views on the basis of the expertise that you have. If you work directly with a small organisation and want help with facilitating a session gathering evidence from detainees, we may be able to put you in touch with someone who can help with that.

The deadline for the submission of written evidence is 1 October 2014. As a guideline, submissions should be:

  1. In word format with limited use of colour
  2. No more than 3000 words
  3. Include numbered paragraphs
  4. Include information about your organisation

Please be aware that submissions may be published unless exemption is requested. If an organisation or person request that their evidence be published anonymously it will be published but without naming the submitter (ie, under the title ‘anonymous’).

EMAIL

Please send electronic evidence to jonathan.featonby@parliament.uk

POST

You can send a hard copy of your evidence to: Detention Inquiry, Office of Sarah Teather MP, House of Commons, Westminster, SW1A 0AA

Detention Inquiry holds first oral evidence session

The APPG on Refugees and APPG on Migration joint inquiry into the use of immigration detention held its first oral evidence session today.

The panel first heard evidence from Shami Chakrabarti (Director, Liberty) and Jerome Phelps (Director, Detention Action), who answered questions from the panel on, amongst others subjects, access to legal support and indefinite detention.

Detention Action’s written evidence to the inquiry can be read here: detention-action-detention-inquiry-evidence-0714.

The panel then spoke directly to three detainees currently held in Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre by phone link. The detainees told the panel about their own experiences in detention.

The third set of witnesses to give evidence were three former detainees: Alice, Maimuna and Souleymane. They told the panel about their experiences trying to access medical support, and about how their detention had effected their mental health.

Lastly, the panel heard from Dr Cornelius Katona and Dr Katy Robjant, both from the Royal College of Psychiatry and the Helen Bamber Foundation. Dr Katona and Dr Robjant discussed their own work with clients who had experience immigration detention, as well as the international evidence relating to the impact of detention on mental health outcomes.

An article on the mental health implications of detaining asylum seekers, co-authored by Dr Katona and Dr Robjant, is available here: Robjant Hassan and Katona 2009.

The panel would like to encourage all interested parties to submit written evidence to the inquiry. The deadline for submitting written evidence is 1 October 2014.