On Thursday 26 March, the House of Lords debated the report of the inquiry into the use of immigration detention in the United Kingdom.
The debate was opened by Lord Lloyd of Berwick, who served on the inquiry panel. Lord Lloyd, who had secured the debate, was also making his valedictory speech, during which he said:
We are the only country in Europe which allows indefinite detention of this kind. In France, the maximum period is 45 days. In Spain, it is two months and in Italy it is three months, so we are way out of line with these countries. In the end, the group came to the view that we should have a maximum limit of 28 days. In coming to that view, we were much influenced by the corrosive effect which prolonged uncertainty has on the detainees themselves. There was much evidence to that effect, both from the detainees and the experts.
Baroness Ruth Lister, who also served on the inquiry panel, added that:
What became clear during the inquiry was the disconnect between official policy and what actually happens. The current Home Office guidance that detention should be used sparingly and for the shortest possible period is rendered ineffective by working practices and culture.
A third panel member, Baroness Sally Hamwee, noted the international evidence submitted during the inquiry:
The evidence is that compliance rates from community-based arrangements for looking after asylum seekers are very high, and of course that is a much less expensive way of going about the work. There are relatively few absconds. The case management model used in Sweden is based on early intervention and a welfare and rights framework. Individuals feel that they are given a fair hearing—and if they have to leave, they can make their own arrangements with dignity. This inquiry has said to me, among other things, that one of the things that is most lacking is dignity. A fair process means that the outcome is much more readily accepted, so it is effective in every sense.
In total, 15 Members of the House of Lords spoke during the debate, which can be watched online here. The full Hansard report of the debate is available by clicking here. During the debate, a number of Peers mentioned a letter from the Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire, that was sent to Sarah Teather, the Chair of the inquiry panel. This letter can be found on the correspondence page of this site.