Refugee Action echoes MPs’ urgent call for immigration detention reform

By March 3, 2015Press release

Refugee Action welcomes the findings of a damning report released today into the state of immigration detention in the UK and urges the government to apply the key recommendations.

The report by the Joint Inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Groups of Refugees and Migration criticised the government for detaining people for indefinite amounts of time and disproportionately frequently.

Stephen Hale, Chief Executive of Refugee Action, said:

“Refugee Action welcomes the report into the use of immigration detention in the UK and strongly agrees that the current detention process has too high a cost in financial terms, and to the physical and mental wellbeing of detainees.”

ONS migration statistics released last week included a snapshot of the numbers of people detained in December from 2011 to 2014. The statistics showed an unusual increase of 24 per cent (666) in the number of detained people in December 2014 when compared to December 2013.

Refugee Action’s Choices Assisted Voluntary Return (AVR) service was projected to assist 2,500 detained people to return to their countries through AVR programmes between April 2014 and April 2015 but the Home Office discontinued this service for detainees from April 2014. The increase in the number of people detained at the end of the year could be the result of those people no longer having the option of leaving detention and returning to their countries through AVR.

Stephen Hale added:

“Had AVR remained an option for people in detention, it would have prevented unnecessary stays in detention and saved the taxpayer a lot of money. Crucially it would also have given these people an opportunity to leave detention and rebuild their lives in with respect and dignity.

“Refugee Action’s Choices AVR programme helped people in detention make informed decisions on whether to voluntarily return to their countries through AVR programmes and provided support. We believe the decision to end AVR in detention was flawed. People in detention should be eligible for AVR and be supported to consider their future.”

Refugee Action submitted written evidence to the inquiry and strongly endorses the key recommendations of this report, including:

  • No one should be held for more than 28 days
  • The government should stop detaining people disproportionately frequently
  • Detention should be rare, for a short period and only to effect removal
  • A wider range of alternatives to detention need to be introduced

In the report, Sarah Teather MP, Chair of the Inquiry, said:

“Crucially, this panel believes that little will change by tinkering with the pastoral care or improving the facilities. We believe the problems that beset our immigration detention estate occur quite simply because we detain far too many people unnecessarily and for far too long. The current system is expensive, ineffective and unjust.”

As a member of the Detention Forum Refugee Action has advocated for a more humane detention system. Research by Refugee Action last year revealed the severe detrimental impact of detention on the physical and mental health on detainees, as well as problems with access to legal advice.

The research found that a majority of those interviewed (62 per cent) said that they had developed a physical or mental health condition whilst in detention and almost two-thirds of those who said that they had requested medical assistance had not received it or stated that they had been given inadequate support.

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