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MPs call for an end to the indefinite detention of migrants

INDEFINITE detention of immigrants must end, MPs and peers urge in a proposal for a major shake-up published today.

The recommendation is laid out in a report from the joint committee on human rights, which also calls for decisions to detain to be made independently of the Home Office.

Five major reforms to the immigration detention system are proposed, including better access to legal advice, more protection for the vulnerable and improved detention conditions to make detentions “fair, humane, decent and quick.”

More is needed to make detention estates “less like prisons,” the report said.

The committee heard from former detainees who described the indeterminate and distressing nature of detention and the uncertainty associated with it as “mental torture.”

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons and the Independent Monitoring Boards reported being told by detainees that detentions having no fixed duration is a key cause of distress and anxiety.

On average, 27,000 people a year enter immigration detention. While the majority of individuals are held for less than 28 days, some are held for months or even years.

People entering detention have no idea how long it will last and face various challenges, including difficulties in accessing legal advice, meaning limited opportunities to challenge their detention.

They also experience poor or prison-like conditions and unnecessarily restrictive regimes where they are locked in their rooms for long periods of time.

In some cases, detainees also experience unsympathetic attitudes, heavy-handedness or ill-treatment by immigration enforcement teams.  

The committee also took evidence from groups such as Detention Action, Liberty, Amnesty International, Mind, Freed Voices and Inquest.

Liberty policy and campaigns manager Sam Grant told the Star that indefinite detention is “an ineffective and inefficient waste of money and human life.

“This report shows once again that locking people up without release dates devastates mental health and destroys the lives of the tens of thousands of people imprisoned each year and the families they leave behind.

“Politicians of all parties, legal and medical associations, faith leaders and the public want an end to this unnecessary suffering.

“The government must use the Immigration Bill to finally act. Detention must be an absolute last resort and strictly limited to 28 days.”

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