HASC Committee criticises Home Office's ‘shockingly cavalier’ attitude to detention - Refugee Council
news  |  March 21, 2019

HASC Committee criticises Home Office’s ‘shockingly cavalier’ attitude to detention

The Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) has today published a damning report into immigration detention, describing the Home Office’s approach to this practice as ‘shockingly cavalier’ and calling for an end to the use of indefinite immigration detention.

The Committee warns that the ‘utter failure’ of the Home Office has led to serious problems with almost every aspect of the immigration detention system. As well as calling for an end to indefinite detention, the HASC recommends implementing a maximum 28-day limit on the time someone can be detained for, with a consultation on how time limit maximums should be applied to those who are vulnerable. The HASC also recommends that this time limit is accompanied by ‘a robust series of regular checks and safeguards’ to ensure the maximum limit does not become the default.

The report also explores the effectiveness of detention, referencing the evidence which suggests that the majority of those detained are released back into the community. The Committee questions the effectiveness of the detention estate, with a particular concern for individuals who the Government has determined is unsuited for detention under their own vulnerability policies. The Committee also identified problems with lengthy delays in asylum decisions, appeals and documentation, which can lead to unnecessarily prolonging individuals’ detention.

Prompted to examine detention after physical and verbal abuse at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) was exposed in 2017, the HASC’s report follows four previous reports into immigration detention, namely a joint report by the APPG on Migration and APPG on Refugees; two reviews by Stephen Shaw, on behalf of the Home Office, and a report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

Today’s report is highly critical of immigration detention and the current detention estate. Other recommendations include:

  • Stronger judicial oversight by subjecting initial detention decisions to review by a Judge within 72 hours
  • Caseworkers involved in detention decisions must meet the individual in person at least once, either before finalising the decision to detain them and/or within one week of detention having started
  • Introduce a thorough, face-to-face pre-detention screening process to facilitate disclosure of vulnerability
  • Abolish the new Adults at Risk (AAR) policy which is ‘clearly not protecting the vulnerable people it was introduced to protect’ and a reversion to previous policy on the presumption not to detain, except in very exceptional circumstances
  • The Home Office must engage with a variety of stakeholders and those with experience of detention so as to develop agreed categories of vulnerabilities
  • Ensuring that all IRCs have robust and effective whistleblowing procedures

You can read this report in full here.

Responding to this report, Andy Hewett, Head of Advocacy at the Refugee Council, said: “The UK remains the only country in Europe to detain people indefinitely – a practice that is utterly inhumane, not to mention both expensive and ineffective. It can leave lifelong damage on those subjected to it, which includes thousands of people seeking asylum each year. It is high time this shameful practice ended and we urge government to take heed of the ever growing body of compelling evidence making the case for that.”