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Amnesty International UK finds immigration detention is being used as a matter of routine

Date of Publication: 
5 January 2018

Report says UK should seek alternatives to immigration detention and must end indefinite detention

Amnesty International UK finds immigration detention is being used as a matter of routine

05 January 2018

Amnesty International UK last month became the latest organisation to publish a detailed report on its concerns over the use of immigration detention in the UK.

The 52-page report 'A Matter of Routine: The use of immigration detention in the UK' can be read here.

Chapter one of the report sets out the legal and policy framework under which immigration detention operates in the UK, and finds immigration detention has gone from being used reluctantly to being used routinely.

Amnesty says: "All talk of 'regret' over the use of detention has been removed and replaced with an assertion that immigration detention 'must be retained' as a tool of immigration control."

The size of the detention estate increased from being able to hold 475 people in the year 2000 to a peak capacity of over 3,800 in 2014. It has since declined slightly to 3,537 in November 2017.

Chapter two of the report examines the physical and metal harm that immigration detention causes to detainees and their family members. This chapter draws on the experiences of a range of people affected by detention.

The chapter states: "we repeatedly found harm being caused by detention and our findings are consistent with a long-standing, widely researched and widely acknowledged pattern. Indefinite immigration detention, whether or not the detainee suffers from pre-existing conditions or trauma, regularly and reliably results in serious and lasting harm, both to the detainee and the people close to them."

Chapter 3 focuses on the initial decision to detain, the consideration that goes into it and the oversight of it, while the fourth and final chapter examines what happens to people's cases once they have been put in detention.

Amnesty examined a number of detainees' cases for the report and it finds "all too often detainees were kept in detention when it was evident that their removal from the country would not occur any time soon."

Amnesty International UK concludes that detention is being maintained as a matter of default and convenience and says the UK must end indefinite immigration detention and the Home Office must begin to seek alternatives to detention wherever possible and only ever turn to detention as a last resort.

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 report makes eight specific recommendations to the Home Office and the Government, which are as follows:

  • Significantly reduce the use of immigration detention, ensuring that far fewer people are detained and that anyone who is detained is held for a far shorter time.
  • To comply with international human rights standards, ensure that the Enforcement Instructions and Guidance documents, and all other relevant detention policy and guidance documents, revert to emphasising that detention is only to be used as a last resort and focusing to a much greater extent on the use of alternatives to detention.
  • Take steps to fulfil the legal duty to treat the best interests of all children affected by immigration detention decisions as a primary consideration.
  • The Home Office should further reduce the immigration detention estate.
  • Introduce a universally applicable statutory time limit for detention, short enough to constitute an effective constraint on its use.
  • To implement universal automatic judicial oversight of detention, replace the automatic bail provisions of the Immigration Act 2016 with those passed in the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
  • Call for a universally applicable statutory time limit and universal automatic judicial oversight to be passed into law.
  • Following the publication of Stephen Shaw's second report, instigate a new inquiry into the current use of immigration detention, modelled on the 2015 Joint Inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration.