Immigration detention can cause real distress and anxiety, particularly among vulnerable groups. Detention should always be used as a measure of last resort in our immigration and asylum system.
A number of organisations have raised concerns about the way our immigration detention system is currently operating. Many of these concerns were amplified in a report by the All Party Parliamentary Groups on Refugees and Migration in March last year. The House of Commons debate in September 2015 that followed publication of this report highlighted the need to reform of the current system. There should be, for instance, a greater emphasis on alternatives to detention. This approach is supported by evidence from other countries about the effectiveness of alternatives such as stronger community-based approaches.
Stephen Shaw’s Review into the Welfare in Detention of Vulnerable Persons was published by the government earlier this year. It made 64 recommendations and its findings showed that the rules meant to protect vulnerable people are not working.
With Labour support, the House of Lords passed an amendment to the government’s Immigration Bill last month to introduce a 28 day limit on immigration detention unless otherwise determined by a court.
Our immigration system needs to be fair and effective. The indefinite detention of people in the asylum and immigration system should never be allowed.
I voted against the Immigration Bill in its entirety at its Third Reading in the House of Commons on December 1 2015 because it fell short of providing the comprehensive and coherent strategy we need to bring greater controls and fairness to our immigration system. I also spoke about this issue at a recent parliamentary reception which you can read about here.
More needs to be done to improve our immigration system. The government needs to recognise the concerns that have been raised by both the All Party Parliamentary Group and the Shaw review.