Home Office use of indefinite immigration detention ‘causing serious harm

Kate Allen

The UK must end indefinite immigration detention, Amnesty International said today, as it published a new report highlighting the long-term damage caused by the practice.

The 50-page report, ‘A matter of routine: The use of immigration detention in the UK’, shows how detention is “being maintained as a matter of default and convenience”, leading to harm to both detainees and their families.

Amnesty said that with very few exceptions, immigration detainees are held without a statutory time limit, meaning that on entering detention they have no idea when they will be released.

While for many, detention ultimately lasts at most a few weeks, others are held for many months and some for years. Most detainees are ultimately released back into the community.

However, Amnesty found a “complacent approach” to the use of detention powers, resulting in people being detained unnecessarily and then being kept in detention through often unjustifiable reasons.

Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, said: “While detention may be used as a matter of routine by the Home Office, the impact it is having is far from routine for those affected by it.

“For the vast majority of detainees, detention is indefinite. And that lack of an end date is causing serious harm, not only to those detained but also to their loved ones.

“Families are being torn apart. Those responsible for making decisions to detain must start treating detention with the gravity it deserves.

“Our country has a duty to review immigration and asylum cases quickly and fairly, and to treat people with respect in the meantime.

“The government must end the routine use of indefinite detention and introduce a time limit as soon as possible.

“It is time that the UK joined all other countries in the EU, and set a limit on how long people in immigration detention can be held.”

The number of people taken into detention in the year ending September 2017 was 27,565. As of November 2017, there are nine long-term detention centres in the UK.

In addition, prisons continue to be used for immigration detention purposes. The Home Office does not share the total capacity in prisons, but a recent snapshot survey estimated around 360 people are currently held in prison solely under immigration powers.

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