Unsound effects

Rosser4x3.jpgRichard Rosser on the issues taking up the final two Committee days on the Immigration Bill 

This week sees the Immigration Bill continue its Committee stage in the Lords. Among the many issues to be discussed is immigration detention.

In 1993, there were 250 immigration detention places available in the UK. At the start of last year, the figure had reached 3,915 with the number of people starting detention in the year to June 2015 topping 32,000. Up 10% on the previous year. Unusually, we have no limit in this country on administration detention for immigration purposes and no automatic judicial oversight.

An all-party group recommendation from the last parliament calling for the introduction of limits on indefinite immigration detention was endorsed by the Commons last September. Following a visit to the controversial Yarl’s Wood removal centre last year, the Chief Inspector of Prisons said that a strict limit should be introduced on the length of time that anyone can be detained administratively.

The newly published government commissioned report from the former prisons and probation service ombudsmen Stephen Shaw included results of a review by Professor Mary Bosworth. Her two significant findings were that immigration detention has a negative impact upon detainees’ mental health, and that the longer it continues the larger the impact.

Mr Shaw recommended that in common with individuals who have been trafficked or tortured, there should be a presumption against detention for victims of rape and other sexual or gender based violence. Plus a complete exclusion for pregnant women. For those suffering with serious mental illness, individuals who “cannot be satisfactorily managed in detention” should be removed from the Enforcement Instructions and Guidance. All in all, detention “ought to be reduced”.

Labour supports the Shaw recommendations, and we will seek answers from Ministers on their response. We will also call for an independently chaired review to look specifically at introducing a statutory time limit on immigration detention, and the effectiveness of the procedures.

We will also use this week’s final two Committee days to look closely at the extension of the “deport first, appeal later” provisions to all immigration cases which retain a right of appeal. The main group affected by this will be those appealing on human rights grounds based on Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights – the right to respect for private and family life.  We will oppose these measures in the Bill, highlighting how this provision will be both impractical and unfair given the high success rate. The proposals appear to have little justification other than a desire to make it harder to go down the appeal route.

Labour are particularly concerned about the effect these provisions will have on children. The Children’s Commissioner’s report last year emphasised the potential negative impact on a child not having access to a parent for some months or years due to the lengthy appeals process.

This Bill is so far living up to its stated intention: to make it harder for those without the required immigration status to live and work in this country. But what is being put forward risks the creation of a system that could subsequently harm some of the most vulnerable in society.

Lord Richard Rosser is Shadow Home Office Minister in the House of Lords

Published 1st February 2016

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