Faith leaders have called on the Government to end its “unjust, ineffective and inhumane” practice of detaining people indefinitely without trial for administrative reasons in immigration cases.
At present, Britain detains around 30,000 people a year in mostly privately-run detention centres on administrative grounds, ostensibly while attempts are made to remove them from the UK. Britain is the only European country not to have a time limit on how long people can be detained for on immigration grounds.
Leading Church figures have joined rabbis, the Muslim Council of Great Britain, the Sikh Federation and Hindu Council to ask Home Secretary Amber Rudd to put a 28-day limit on immigration detention in the upcoming Immigration Bill that she is due to present to Parliament to establish a post-Brexit immigration system.
Their statement reads:
“The UK is the only European country without a statutory time limit on immigration detention. The routine use of indefinite detention is unjust, ineffective and inhumane. Evidence shows that it causes huge harm – not only to those detained, but to their family, children, friends and community.
“The time to act is now. We urge the Government to put some fairness, decency and due process into our immigration system and urgently put a 28-day time limit on detention.”
During the election campaign every major political party’s manifesto contained a vow to end indefinite detention in immigration cases. All apart from the Conservative Party. Even though many Conservative MPs have joined colleagues from all parties to call for the practice to end. The cruel practice has been criticised by MPs from both sides of the benches, Her Majesty’s Prison Inspectorate and the NGO’s involved in helping those scarred by it rebuild their lives.
In 2015 MP’s from all parties reported on how pregnant women, children and survivors of torture, rape and PTSD were being held indefinitely on purely administrative grounds by the Home Office. Sometimes with no prospect of removal from the country. The practice, they found, coasts 80% more than dealing with immigration cases without detaining people.
The All Party Parliamentary Group which recommended a time limit on detention was led by Lib Dem MP Sarah Teather who since retired as an MP and has signed this letter in her present role as Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service. The letter is signed by other religious leaders including Canon Mark Oakley, Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, Bishop Paul McAleenan, lead Catholic Bishop for migration and asylum, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism and Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, Senior Rabbi, Liberal Judaism.
This week’s Commons Home Affairs Committee report on Brexit and Immigration included accounts of a frightening trend towards EU nationals being detained in Immigration Removal Centres.
The inquiry heard that “a significant increase in the detention of EU nationals following Brexit would potentially put increased pressure on a detention system which is already struggling to cope with the current volume of people detained, and which fails properly to safeguard vulnerable individuals.”
These detention centers, some Home Office-run, others outsourced to multinationals such as Serco and G4S, have been associated with abuses, people being held indefinitely without legal representation, vulnerable people, pregnant women and children being incarcerated.
Ten people died in immigration detention last year– the highest figure recorded.
The Home Office has paid out £21.2m to people the courts found had been unlawfully detained under this regime over the past five years, a small fraction of the cost to the tax payer of running detention centres (over half a billion in the past four years) as well as treating the psychological damage they have been documented to cause. The majority of people in detention are released back into the community anyway, rather than removed from the country.
Human Rights organisation Liberty is running a petition adding to the faith leaders’ campaign to get Amber Rudd to add a time limit to the upcoming Immigration Bill.