2018 Has Seen Our System of Immigration Detention Go from Bad to Worse

11 Jul, 2018 | Blogs, Stop the hostile environment

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Michael Goldin calls for government reforms to an “appalling” system of immigration control.

The UK’s system of detaining individuals subject to immigration control has always been appalling. The system gives rise to a litany of shameful concerns, including the fact that we are the only country in Europe to detain people indefinitely. In Yarl’s Wood, the detention centre for women and families, there have been reports of sexual abuse, as well as violent and unprofessional behaviour by staff members in other detention centres. Almost unbelievably, 2018 has seen the system get even worse.

In January 2018, the Immigration Act 2016 brought sweeping changes to the system of applying for bail from immigration detention. It has always been, and continues to be, the case that detainees who are unlikely to be removed from the UK imminently can apply to the Immigration Tribunal to be released from detention.

“our system of immigration detention is reaching crisis point”

However, under the old system, if a detainee did not have an address to be released to, they could apply for an address to be provided by the Home Office under section 4(1)(c) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. This is no longer the case. The Home Office is now only required to provide a bail address in very particular circumstances, circumstances which have little relationship to reality.

The Free Movement blog quoted a briefing from the charity Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) which explains the circumstances under which detainees can apply for an address and why they are absurd. Free Movement describes the briefing as laying out ‘a series of Kafkaesque scenarios’, where:

  • Migrants who are not asylum seekers can in theory get accommodation under paragraph 9, schedule 10 of the Immigration Act 2016, but there is no actual process for them to apply for it.
  • Failed asylum seekers can apply for accommodation under section 4(2) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 if they have proof that they are due for release within 14 days, but detainees are never given a date for release.
  • Other asylum seekers can apply for accommodation under section 95 of the 1999 Act if they are “destitute”, but the Home Office says that if they are still detained they cannot be destitute. These applicants are forced to go onto the streets so as to satisfy the destitution test and only then apply for accommodation.’

The result of the new Immigration Act has, unsurprisingly, been a huge drop in the number of detainees being granted addresses.

BID tweeted:

‘In response to an FOI request, the Home Office acknowledges that it has granted only 24 addresses under Schedule 10 in the 1st 5 mths of this year as compared to 2,824 grants of Sec 4(1)(c) accommodation during 2017’

Given that immigration judges are reluctant to grant bail to someone without an address, the net result is that individuals are being detained for even longer than before. Detention centres are prison-like environments where abuse and neglect are rife; if the Home Office is going to use them at all, they should only do so when someone is imminently to be removed lawfully from the UK.

“we are the only country in Europe to detain people indefinitely”

Furthermore, Detention Action’s report on alternatives to detention makes clear the workable policies which would allow detainees to remain in their communities without being detained in the first place. To continue to detain a person in such an environment, simply because they do not have the resources or social connections to provide an address, is cruel in the extreme. Our system of immigration detention is reaching crisis point; our government needs to do something about it without delay.

Michael Goldin is a trainee solicitor practicing immigration, asylum and human rights law. He is also a member of the René Cassin Detention Campaign Group and an alumnus of the René Cassin Fellowship Programme.






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