In a democratic and civilised world, there is no concept of detention/imprisonment without any trial or proving the guilt of a person. Even the suspects in the criminal cases cannot be detained indefinitely but unfortunately the immigration detainees do not have the same luxury. Technically, the ‘Immigration Detention’ is a punishment without any trial or providing any legal help and an opportunity to the immigrants to prove their status in the country. After detention they are asked to prove their innocence or the reasons of living in the country. One should not forget that the immigration detainees are not criminal and should not be locked up like criminals.
The ‘Panorama’ programme of BBC on the ‘Brook Home Immigration Removal Centre’ revealed the shocking abuse of detainees and law in the centre.
This panorama programme was a result of two reports from:
- Stephen Shaw – Former Prisons and Probation Ombudsman;
- Joint Committee on Human Rights
These reports condemned in unequivocal terms the Home Office detention policy and practice.
Recently, the ‘Home Affairs Select Committee’ which is most authentic and powerful committee of the Parliament has released their report on this subject and strongly censured every part of the immigration detention system.
This committee has taken in to account the concerns of immigration law practitioners, NGOs and the immigrants who are detained.
The committee observed the flagrant violation of judicial oversight of detention after 72 hours and 28 day limit on immigration detention as provided under the existing rules.
The committee have strongly condemned cavalier attitude to the depravation of human liberty and the violation of people’ basic rights.
This 110 pages report mentions ‘serious flaws and breaches in almost every area of the immigration detention processes’.
Lately the Home Office introduced a policy known as (Adults at risk) to prevent the detention of individuals who are “Particularly vulnerable to harm themselves in detention)”. Unfortunately, this policy has the opposite effect as less people are released under Rule 35 after the introduction of this policy. The Committee recognised that the policy had ‘increased the burden on vulnerable people to evidence the risk of harm’ and urged the government to revert to its previous policy of a presumption not to detain vulnerable individuals except in “very exceptional circumstances”.
The Committee also recognised that change to Bail accommodation policy has effectively barred homeless detainees from publicly funded bail accommodation.
The report says it is “unacceptable that some detainees are being forced to languish in immigration detention or in some cases are being thrown on to the streets because the Home Office is not ensuring people can secure accommodation post release”.
This is unacceptable and it is breach of people’s fundamental human rights.
The various organisations working for the welfare of immigration detainees are running a campaign to force the Home Office to review this policy. The lack of accommodation should not prevent the bail to immigrants who are not criminal or guilty of any crime. The new immigration Bail provisions introduced in January 2018 are clearly not working.
The report has clearly criticised the current position of the Home Office that Asylum Seekers in detention do not satisfy the destitution test, even if they would be homeless and destitute upon release. Therefore, the poorest Asylum Seekers are locked up for long simply for being poor.
In my experience, The Home Office is frequently giving reason for the detention with excessive weight to absconding and non-compliance of the immigrants for the reporting restrictions.
We have to understand that apart from illness, there are many other reasons for missing the reporting and due consideration should be given for the various reasons due to which the immigrants miss their signing or unable to comply with all the restrictions.
The Committee has pointed out that the Home Office is not using the detention as a last resort once all other options have been exhausted, as standard immigration law and practice.
In addition, the report recognised that “The Home Office case-working inefficiencies are unnecessarily prolonging people’ detention”.
Due to this bureaucratic inefficiency, lot of foreign nationals are detained under immigration powers for long periods at the end of their custodial sentence in other crimes.
The Committee report slams reforms made in response to Shaw’s 1916 report.
This report observed that the ‘oversights’ of the Home Office done by the other departments of the Home Office are judged by the Home Office officials themselves. The Committee rightly pointed out ‘whether a process that remains internal can be truly independent’. Therefore external monitoring is essential to see that these so called ‘oversights’ of the Home Office should not ruin someone’s life!
It has been established and recognised that the immigration detainees held in prisons do not get the same treatment or facilities given to immigration detainees held in the Immigration Removal Centres. This includes lack of access to communication and legal advice and the absence of Rule 35 process or anything similar whereby a person can have their vulnerability recognised and detention reviewed. Simply it is neither just nor right.
It is also recognised that the late serving of detention documentation at the end of the migrants’ prison sentence resulted in a tragic suicide death of Michal Netyks who committed suicide after being told on his release date that he would remain in prison under immigration powers.
The four-month automatic bail process has been repeatedly championed by the Home Secretary as an important reform. Even this reform has been harshly criticised for not giving detainees adequate time or automatic legal advice.
Our experience confirms that the Home Office routinely fails to fulfil its statutory duty under Section 55 of the Borders, the Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009.
Section 55 requires the department to make all its decisions having regard for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children with the best interest of the child being a primary consideration.
Unfortunately, this guidance is not always followed by the Home Office. When the decision to detain a parent is made, the welfare of the children affected is rarely considered.
As a matter of fact, every aspect of the immigration detention policy and practice has been criticised by the Committee, which represents the will of the people through the Parliament.
The most interesting disclosure was done by Mr Nathan Ward, an employee of G45 (A Security Agency) according to him, that ‘while working at Brook House (a Detention Centre), a senior civil servant was telling us that they were under tremendous pressure to get people through the system and deport them in that year in particular, because it was that year’s statistics that would be reported just before the General Election’. We always doubted and suspected that the immigration policy is dictated by the political constraints and whims. The immigration officers are bribed with incentives to meet the targets of removal and deportation, irrespective of the compelling compassionate basis and grounds of the most vulnerable section of our society.
The report also criticises conditions in detention including chronic overcrowding, poor quality of food and accommodation, health care, excessive use of lock in regimes, lack of activities, crowded and unsanitary cells and a culture of abuse. The report incorporates chilling testimonies from people who have been detained. As a matter of fact, this report is very alarming as no aspect of the inhumanity of Immigration detention is left untouched.
Now the question is simply, how many more of these reports we need to read before this barbaric process is finally abolished.
I am highly indebted to free movement and Rudy Schulkind for providing the information and highlighting the plight of Immigration Detainees.