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A LEGAL challenge to the Home Office’s policy of paying migrants just £1 an hour to work inside immigration detention centres was shot down today by a High Court judge.
In a surprise move Mr Justice Murray denied permission for a group of detainees to bring a judicial review against Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s department.
The Home Office was under pressure from lawyers for not giving detainees a pay rise since the £1 an hour rate was first fixed in 2008.
Reacting to the judgement, the group’s lawyer Philip Armitage told the Morning Star: “Our clients are understandably very disappointed by this judgement.
“We continue to view £1 per hour wages in immigration detention as a national scandal and exploitative.
“It is another aspect of the ‘hostile environment’ which failed to respect the dignity of our clients.”
Mr Armitage said his firm, Duncan Lewis, wanted to fight on and believed it had “strong legal grounds for an appeal.”
It launched the case nearly two years ago with a letter to then home secretary Amber Rudd threatening legal action.
The Home Office responded by launching a review, in which civil servants eventually recommended a 15p pay rise “in line with inflation.”
The review also heard evidence from staff at G4S, which runs several detention centres for the Home Office, and revealed that some detainees are expected to clean toilets and remove body fat from shower drains.
The private contractors went on to recommend a more substantial pay rise for detainees.
The report was completed at the height of the Windrush scandal, but the pay increase proposal was rejected by ministers.
The detainees then ramped up their legal battle and tried to secure a judicial review of the low pay decision.
The lost wages are substantial, with the Morning Star estimating that detainees have missed out on £28 million over the last decade.
However Mr Justice Murray rejected the detainees’ challenge, saying that it had been issued too many years after the policy came into force.
Even if the claim was made sooner, he said it was “not … inhumane” to set a fixed pay rate, and rejected the argument that detainees felt “compelled” to do the low-paid work in order to support their families.
The Home Office said: “The longstanding practice of offering paid activities to people in immigration detention centres helps to keep them occupied while their removal is being arranged.
“This practice is not a substitute for the work of trained staff due to the voluntary nature of the roles offered to detainees.
“Whether or not they wish to participate is entirely up to the detainees themselves, but the numbers of detainees volunteering for paid activities across the detention estate is evidence that the jobs are popular.”
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