Ministers slammed for rejecting cross-party call to rein in immigration detention

Posted On: 
31st July 2019

Ministers have come under fire for rejecting a cross-party call to rein in the "arbitary" and "unfair" detention of people by the immigration system.


The Home Office said proposals from the Joint Committee on Human Rights to introduce a 28-day limit on detentions would "incentivise" abuse of immigration rules.

In February, a report from the group of MPs and peers had urged ministers to introduce the cap in a bid to end "distress and anxiety" for detainees and to prompt Home Office officials to process cases more quikcly.

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According to the joint committee, 30% of all detainees in the third quarter of 2018 were held for longer than 28-days, with 50 individuals being held for longer than a year.

But in a response to the Committee, the now-former Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said the proposals would put the public "at risk".

"The Government believes that an immigration detention time limit of 28 days would severely constrain the ability to maintain balanced and effective immigration control, potentially incentivise significant abuse of the system, and put the public at risk," she said.

"Any time limit would require a significant and costly re-engineering of a wide range of cross-government and judicial systems to mitigate these consequences.

"There are considerable existing safeguards, and we are taking steps to strengthen these."

But the decision was leapt on by committee chair Harriet Harman, who claimed the indefinite detention policy was a breach of human rights.

"Home Office immigration detention is arbitrary, unfair and breaches human rights. Repeated detention and release, which characterises the system, shows that it must be reformed," the Labour grandee said.

"Parliament will have the opportunity to consider changing the law to protect people from arbitrary detention when the Immigration Bill is brought back."

The Labour MP added: "I'm hopeful that with the strong cross-party backing for the proposals from our committee and the Home Affairs Committee it will do so."


Meanwhile, the committee also hit out at the Government's refusal to consider a review of "heavy-handed" immigration rules which have resulted in dozens of young children being denied citizenship after assesments of their "good character" .

Under the current process, any child over the age of 10 who has recieved a police caution could be barred from becoming a citizen, even if they have lived in the UK for their entire lives.

But the Home Office rejected suggestions that the system had strayed away from its original purpose of exluding people guilty of "heinous crimes", saying anyone above the age of criminal responsibility should be subject to the process.

Ms Harman added: "The Home Office has made some welcome concessions in response to our report, but it is unacceptable that children who are born in the UK and grow up here their whole lives, being British to all who would meet them, are considered by the Home Office to be on a par with those moving to the UK well into adult-hood and without those strong cultural and indentity links with the UK."

The report comes as Boris Johnson prepares to appoint a new immigration minister following last week's sacking of Ms Nokes.