Labour MPs Tulip Siddiq and Paul Blomfield will today in the Commons introduce a Ten Minute Rule Bill to limit immigration detention to 28 days.
The bill has secured backing from Conservative MPs, including Dominic Grieve, Andrew Mitchell, Caroline Spelman and David Davis.
“It should shame our nation that Britain is the only EU country to detain immigrants without a time-limit,” Siddiq told the Standardlast week.
Writing in the New Statesman yesterday, Siddiq said her bill will argue that the current system of immigration detention is unfit for purpose, that indefinite detention amounts to torture, and that the government must finally heed calls for reform.
Saddiq said the detention experience is deeply traumatic, with detainees describing the uncertainty over the length of their detention as being a form of “mental torture”.
“Detention is used excessively and sometimes unlawfully, with officials often deciding on detention without considering alternatives. The detention of two members of the Windrush generation is an example of an endemic problem of wrongful decision making. Between 2012 and 2017, at least 850 people were mistakenly detained”, the MP for Hampstead and Kilburn wrote.
Saddiq said the time had now come to act and end the practice of indefinite detention.
A Home Office spokesman told the Standard that the law does not allow indefinite detention and added that two thirds of those in detention in 2018 were detained for less than 29 days.
Meanwhile, the Home Office announced on Monday that it had launched a new pilot scheme in partnership with the Action Foundation charity in order to manage vulnerable women in the community as an alternative to immigration detention.
The first phase of the 2-year pilot will see up to 21 women supported in the community who would otherwise be detained at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre. Up to 50 women will be supported in total.
Developing alternatives to detention for those who are vulnerable is part of the government’s response to Stephen Shaw’s second review into the welfare in detention of vulnerable persons.
The Home Office says it has also partnered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to work with charities, faith groups and local communities to develop a number of other pilot schemes to support migrants in the community. The schemes will begin in the New Year.
Matthew Saltmarsh of UNHCR UK said: “We welcome the recent decline in the use of immigration detention in the UK and encourage the government to continue this positive trend. This pilot – to manage vulnerable women in the community, when they might otherwise be detained – is an important first step.
“UNHCR will continue to bring international best practice experience to the development of alternatives to immigration detention in the UK, and we are fully committed to advising the government on rolling out future pilots in the hope that further reductions in immigration detention will follow.”
Writing in the Huffington Post, Bella Sankey of Detention Action said the pilot project was a welcome step in the government’s new strategy to reduce detention, but she added that there is no case for keeping women locked up arbitrarily while the pilot takes place, and Yarl’s Wood could, and should, be emptied tomorrow.
“If the government lacks the political courage then parliament must act. The campaign to impose a strict 28-day detention time limit has overwhelming cross-party support. The parliamentary arithmetic means there is now a majority for ending indefinite detention in the House of Commons. The forthcoming Immigration Bill could provide the perfect opportunity,” Sankey said.