• Sarah

Thoughts On 5 Reasons You Should Care About Immigration Detention

Updated: Jul 11

As with many other subjects featuring asylum seekers, there is a lot of information that floats around that it totally misrepresented and incorrect which has a really damaging narrative impact. The detention of anyone within a prison system or detention system is contentious and everyone has different views, however, it is important that this opinions are based on fact rather than false information so lets explore the matter of immigration detention together.

What do we mean by immigration detention?

This term refers to the Home Office practice of detaining foreign nationals for the purposes of immigration control. The Migration Observatory identify that detention is usually for one or more of these reasons:

  1. for the purpose of removal of an individual from the UK.

  2. to establish an individuals identity or the basis of their immigration or asylum claim.

  3. if there is reason to believe they will abscond if given bail

  4. when release is not seen to be in the 'public good'.

It is important to identify that an individuals reason for detention can change whilst they are being detained.

Some facts about immigration detention.

  • Detention Action identify that within the UK around 25,000 people each year are detained for immigration purposes.

  • Between 2009 and 2019, the daily population in immigration detention ranged from 1,600 to 3,500 as reported by the Migration Observatory.

  • At the end of 2019, the longest serving detainee had been held in immigration detention for 1,002 days. This is over 2.5 years

  • Around one third of detainees are held for over 28 days.

  • The Migration Observatory identify that removal from the UK the figures have dropped from 64% in 2010 to 37% in 2019 and those leaving following gaining immigration bail has gone up from 34% in 2010 to 61% in 2019.

Why should you care about immigration detention?

There are so many reasons that I care about immigration detention and these are some of the reasons that I think you should:

1) It is a moral issue: when the subject of immigration detention is discussed people assume that all the people detained are those who have been convicted of a criminal offence and are serving a prison sentence. This is not accurate, actually you can be detained for following the instructions and rules you have been provided such as attending your signing event with the Home Office. It is estimated that in 2019, 58% of those entering detention were individuals who had claimed asylum in the UK.

2) The lack of court or judge oversight: The Home Office has a department have the power to detail a person at any point in their immigration process. To detain someone they do not have to present them before a court and there is no legal criteria from the government as to 'whom' should be detained and therefore, this decision is entirely by the Home Office. This is the same as the police not having to present you in court for an offence but could just decide to play in prison.

3) Immigration detention is indefinite: Lets just let that sink in, you are detained without a court agreeing (see above) and there is no date in which you will be released. There are numerous calls for the time limit to be set at 28 days, however, thus far this has not been agreed by the Home Office. The UK is the only country in Western Europe who does not have a time limit on detention.

4) Individuals who we know should not be detained still enter the system: Evidence highlights the harmful nature of indefinite detention regardless of situation and there are individuals who we would all accept are likely to be further negatively impacted by detention such as victims of torture, those with learning difficulties and individuals with mental health conditions. Despite this knowledge, there are still people still continue to be detained. For example, in the report completed by the Independent Monitoring Board of Morton Hall IRC they found that at any one time there were typically 40 to 50 detainees who were assessed to be Level 2 Adults at Risk. An individual is classed as an Level 2 Adult at Risk ion the basis of a mental health condition/impairment, a serious physical disability or, possibly, being a victim of torture or violence

5) It is costing the tax payer a huge sum of money: If none of those moral issues worry you, maybe the finances will. It is calculated that each individual held in immigration detention costs just under £95 per day. Figures show that for the year 2018/2019 immigration detention cost the UK £89 million. In addition, in the year ending March 2019, there has been £8.2 million has had to be spent in compensation for incorrect detentions. That is a total of over £97 million being spent for immigration detention. A joint research project by Liberty and Cambridge Econometrics have shown that even by just putting in a limit of 28 days for detention would provide significant savings to the UK.

So what am I saying?

Whilst ideally no-one would be held in immigration detention this does feel unrealistic as there will always be people being removed from the UK and I understand the need to safety plan for those who are assessed to be a significant risk. However, there are clear errors currently taking place both in the policy of the Home Office and the way in which immigration detention is taking place. There needs to be change and policy adjustment.

I strongly believe indefinite detention is a moral issue and should not be allowed to continue - its inhumane and ineffective. There should be a timescale put in place in which someone can be detained for. There should be no way in which someone can be detailed for over 2 years without an end date. I can only imagine the mental torture this person endured. In addition, alternative methods to be found to support high risk adults where it is accepted that detention is likely to impact upon their emotional well being if there detention is only on the basis of being a failed asylum seeker.

When a foreign national commits an offence which warrants a deportation order, then the Home Office should be proactive in ensuring that upon release from main stream custody the removal process can immediately begin, given that a deportation order can be issued and appealed against when someone is in mainstream prison. If a failed asylum seeker is abiding by the conditions given to them for example ensuring that they are attending their appointments with the Home Office, I see no need to detain them - they are doing what is being asked of them.

Lastly, I feel there needs to be independent oversight like the court process to consider whom is being held in immigration detention. We would not allow the police to immediately place someone in prison without trial or Judge oversight and its is poor practice (and dangerous) that the Home Office are able to do this. I can think of no other job in which this lack of oversight takes place.

Further reading and the research considered:






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