For many years, the issue of immigration detention and the failings of the Home Office in reviewing detention policies have been widely reported. Aside from those individuals who have been wrongly detained by the Home Office resulting in millions being paid out in compensation and the poor conditions and treatment of detainees in immigration detention centres, there is also the growing issue of people being detained for indefinite periods of time with no follow-up.
Earlier this month, Stephen Shaw, the former prisons and probation ombudsman, published a second report into conditions in immigration detention. In 2016, the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, commissioned Shaw’s first six-month review into the treatment of detainees. In this new report, Shaw praised the Home Office for having reduced the number of detainees in the last year from 30,000 to 28,000 – an 8% reduction. Although promising, he raised concerns over a number of other issues including the treatment of vulnerable people in detention and expressed his belief that immigration detention should only be used as a last resort.
In response to Shaw’s new report, Sajid Javid, the current Home Secretary, made a statement to parliament announcing that he would conduct a review into how time-limit detention policies in other countries work to inform policy changes in the UK and stated that the government was committed to working with community groups to develop alternatives to detention.
He confirmed that the government would immediately cease their current practice, which allows for over-occupancy in rooms designed for a set number of people and that a review of the training and support available for staff working in immigration removal centres would be undertaken. In acknowledgment of some improvements to the immigration system in recent years, the Home Secretary stated, “My ultimate goal is to ensure that our immigration system – including our approach to detention – is effective and humane”.
Whilst there remains a lot to be done to adequately safeguard vulnerable people who are detained for long periods of time we welcome the Home Secretary’s announcement to conduct a review of Home Office policies. Of course, the effectiveness of such a review remains to be seen.
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