A Joint Inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration has published a report into the use of immigration detention in the UK.
The inquiry collected data and evidence from a wide selection of individuals and organisations; including the Immigration Minister, academics, charities and people who had experience of being detained. It concentrated its focus on the conditions within Immigration Removal Centres ("IRCs") and how long an individual could be detained in a detention centre. The inquiry's panel concluded that "the UK uses detention disproportionately and inappropriately", therefore, there needs to be a maximum time limit for detention and better availability to advice and other means within the detention centres.
Specifically, it was highlighted that many of the IRCs are converted high security prisons, and detainees should not be held in prison-like conditions. It became apparent from the inquiry that although there is access to the internet in the IRCs, this is very limited. The Home Office ban the use of social media which can be detrimental, particularly for those detainees being returned to their home country and are wanting to make arrangements for their return. The recommendation was that the ban on social media should be lifted, and this should be replaced with standard parental controls for social media, as there would be in a domestic home.
Another weakness that was brought into focus was the lack of access to high quality legal representation for detainees, and time available given to legal practitioners in order to properly represent their clients. A recommendation has been made that "the Legal Aid Agency and the Immigration Services Commission carry out regular audits on the quality of advice provided by contracted firms in IRCs, and this must involve talking to detainees about their experiences."
Other recommendations related to reducing the number of frequent moves of detainees around the detention centres, improving access to adequate healthcare for detainees, the reduction in the number of individuals with mental health issues being detained, and an assurance that victims of trafficking and torture are not detained. Additionally, women who are the victims of rape and sexual violence should not be detained and pregnant women should never be detained for immigration purposes. The inquiry also uncovered a high incidence of bullying and harassment towards homosexual and bisexual detainees. It is recommended that the Home Office works with the Home Office National Asylum Stakeholder Forum to assess risks posed to such detainees. It further concluded that "detainees should only be held in prison in the most exceptional circumstances"
In conclusion, the inquiry resulted in recommendations relating to the length of time an individual could be detained for, a maximum time limit of 28 days, and that decisions to detain should be for the shortest time possible "and only to effect removal". It concluded that currently detention is used far too frequently, and that the Government should learn from international best practice and look at more alternatives to detention than are currently used in the UK.
To read the full report, visit the inquiry's website at www.detentioninquiry.com
26 March 2015