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‘Cavalier’ Home Office blasted over immigration detention

THE Home Office has a “shockingly cavalier attitude” towards detaining asylum-seekers, a cross-party group of MPs has found.

A new report by Parliament’s home affairs committee, published today, said the department had “utterly failed in its responsibility to oversee the safe and humane detention of individuals in the UK.”

Thousands of people pass through the Home Office’s network of detention centres each year, while they wait for a decision on their asylum and immigration cases.

The committee said the Home Office too often “does not follow its own policy and guidance, and that a series of safeguarding and case-working failures have led to people being wrongfully detained.”

Over 300 people received compensation for being unlawfully held in immigration detention between 2015 and 2017.

The payouts cost in excess of £7 million, according to figures in the committee’s report.

The MPs called for an end to the practice of indefinite detention and the introduction of a maximum 28-day time limit.

They also urged stronger judicial oversight by a judge within the first 72 hours of detention to bring it in line with other areas of British law.

Further recommendations included “more humane decision-making” whereby Home Office caseworkers would have to meet asylum-seekers in person during the first week of their detention.

The committee also criticised whistleblowing procedures and lamented the “disgraceful abuse of detainees by some staff at Brook House.”

This is a secure a facility run by G4S outside Gatwick airport where staff had secretly been filmed choking a detainee.

MPs also said that this instance of abuse, exposed by an undercover reporter and broadcast on BBC TV’s Panorama programme, was “sadly not the first of its kind.”

Committee chair and Labour MP Yvette Cooper condemned the “casework failures, insufficient judicial safeguards, and a general lack of humanity in the system.

“Making the wrong decision on detention can have a devastating impact on people’s lives — as we saw from the Windrush scandal, but also from many other cases we have seen,” she added.

Amnesty International welcomed the “damning” report.

Its migrant rights programme director Steve Valdez-Symonds added: “Detention is an extreme measure that should only ever be used in exceptional circumstance to achieve a legitimate and realistic purpose. 

“Yet the use of harmful immigration detention powers remains routine, causing real harm to thousands of people and their families every year.”


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