Home Office has ‘utterly failed’ in overseeing safe and humane detention of individuals in the UK
Indefinite immigration detention should be brought to an end and there should be greater judicial oversight of the system as the Home Office has demonstrated a “shockingly cavalier” attitude in its approach to immigration detention and has overseen serious failings in almost every area of the immigration detention process, a new report by the Home Affairs Committee has found.
The report finds that the Home Office has “utterly failed” in its responsibility to oversee the safe and humane detention of individuals in the UK; that it often fails follow its own policy and guidance, and that a series of safeguarding and case-working failures have led to people being wrongfully detained, held in immigration when they are vulnerable and unnecessarily detained.
The committee says that the power to detain is a necessary one but maintains that it should be used only if there are no other options, as a last resort prior to removal. It also makes clear that lengthy immigration detention is unnecessary, inhumane and causes harm.
The inquiry found that Home Office policies which should prevent unlawful detention and harm of vulnerable people are regularly applied in such a way that the most vulnerable detainees, including victims of torture, are not being afforded the necessary protection.
In its report, the committee calls for an end to indefinite detention and a maximum 28-day time limit and says the Home Office must do much more to ensure that detention is an option of last resort.
The committee also calls for an overhaul of the Adults at Risk policy, stronger judicial oversight and a more humane decision-making process for detention to ensure that vulnerable people are not being let down.
Yvette Cooper MP, chair of the Home Affairs Committee, said: “This inquiry has found serious problems in every part of the immigration detention system.
“Irresponsible failures by the Home Office have led to vulnerable people being wrongly detained, people being held in detention far too long, and serious failings in the operation of individual Immigration Removal Centres.
“Reform is needed urgently to ensure the immigration detention system is fair, works sensibly, is transparent and humane.
“The Home Office approach to immigration detention is careless and cavalier – including casework failures, insufficient judicial safeguards, and a general lack of humanity in the system.
“Making the wrong decision on detention can have a devastating impact on people’s lives – as we saw from the Windrush scandal, but also from many other cases we have seen.
“The lack of any time limit and of proper judicial safeguards has allowed the Home Office to drift and delay, leaving people stuck in detention for months who really shouldn’t be there at all.
“The committee has warned before of the need for a culture change at the Home Office to ensure that decisions about people’s lives are made rigorously and with care.”
Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee & migrant rights programme director, said: “The committee is right to give a damning review of the Home Office’s cavalier, excessive and inhumane use of immigration detention.
“Detention is an extreme measure that should only ever be used in exceptional circumstance to achieve a legitimate and realistic purpose. Yet the use of harmful immigration detention powers remains routine, causing real harm to thousands of people and their families every year.
“We urgently need to see effective judicial oversight, legal aid provision and a short and universally-applied statutory time limit on detention.”