Today, the Home Affairs Select Committee publish the report on their inquiry into immigration detention. Two women in our network, who were detained in Yarl’s Wood for long periods, and our Policy and Research Coordinator, Gemma Lousley, gave evidence to the inquiry (available here).

During her evidence, ‘Voke’ told the Committee:

I mentioned that I was tortured from my head to my toes. I have 12 marks on my body. After they [the Home Office] had proof that I had been tortured… they still kept me there. I was monumentally sick. I tried to kill myself twice. I later discovered that if you have been tortured you are not supposed to be in detention.” 

She was detained for 8 months. Voke’s experience illustrates the urgent need for a time limit on detention and improved safeguards to ensure that vulnerable people are not detained, as recommended in the report.

Gemma Lousley says:

“Following an extensive inquiry, the Home Affairs Committee has concluded that there are “serious problems in every part of the immigration detention system”. We completely agree. The Home Office is still routinely locking up survivors of torture, trafficking and rape, in contravention of its own Adults at Risk policy. Moreover, while the number of people in detention overall is falling, statistics also show that the number of people detained for over six months has actually increased.

We welcome the Committee’s recommendations, including that the Home Office should introduce a robust screening process to ensure vulnerable people are identified before a decision to detain is made, and that there should be a 28-day time limit on all immigration detention. But we also think there needs to be more radical change. The Committee’s report adds to the wealth of evidence showing that the immigration detention system is rotten to its core – so, the Home Office needs to abolish this system, and end the use of detention altogether.

The report recommends:

End indefinite detention

  • Bringing an end to indefinite immigration detention and implementing a maximum 28-day time limit. This time limit should be cumulative and accompanied by a robust series of regular checks and safeguards. Any extension should only be made in exceptional circumstances and with prior judicial approval.

Improved oversight

  • Stronger judicial oversight by subjecting the initial detention decision to a review by a judge within 72 hours. This would be in line with other areas of UK law, for example in the UK criminal justice system, where an upper limit for detention without charge exists.
  • Urging the Government to undertake a consultation on how immigration detention time limit maximums could be applied to different types of detainees, such as vulnerable individuals. The Home Office should also consult on the application of the time limit to Foreign National Offenders (FNOs), including assessment of specific public protection issues.

More humane decision making

  • Requiring caseworkers involved in the decision to detain an individual in all cases to meet that individual at least once, in person, prior to finalising the detention decision or/and within one week of their detention.
  • Introducing a thorough, face-to-face pre-detention screening process to facilitate the effective disclosure of any vulnerability.

Improved safeguarding

  • Abolishing the three levels of risk in the Adults at Risk policy and reverting to the previous policy of a presumption not to detain individuals except in very exceptional circumstances. The Home Office should consult with a wide range of stakeholders who are affected by immigration detention including people with lived experience, to develop an agreed grouping of categories of vulnerability.

Robust whistleblowing procedures

  • Ensuring all Immigration Removal Centres have robust and effective whistleblowing procedures which staff and detainees can use with complete confidence, knowing they will be fully protected.