Sunday, 21 February 2010

Challenging unlawful detention in documentation cases

Source: Bail for Immigration Detainees

An invitation to submit evidence to BID's Detainee Documentation Project


Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) represents a large number of detainees who spend many months and sometimes years in immigration detention. Some of those detained for very long periods of time are accused by the UKBA of failing to obtain travel documents to enable them to be removed from the UK. They are therefore penalised by the continuation of detention. Other detainees may face delays or obstacles in the travel documentation process despite making every effort to obtain such documents.

There is no publicly available material on documentation difficulties for different countries, nor any public acknowledgement by the UKBA that the obtaining of documents for certain nationalities is extremely difficult. In an attempt the reduce the length of time people are held in detention pending re-documentation, BID is undertaking a research project to determine the length of time it takes to obtain travel documents from certain countries. We are also seeking information regarding the documents required and the procedures that may need to be followed in order support applications for passports or travel documents.

The aim

BID's Detainee Documentation project will provide legal advisors with a resource tool in cases where documentation issues arise. This will help legal advisors when assessing whether or not the length of detention and the purposes for which detention is being used, have become unlawful.

The UKBA has a duty to apply Hardial Singh principles to ensure that detention is only permitted for the purpose of removal. It must also ensure compliance with Article 5 of the ECHR by acting with 'due diligence' in ensuring that a deportation or removal is effected so as to end detention as speedily as possible. However, experience suggests that the documentation process is often characterised by significant delay, with insufficient and infrequent enquiries on the part of UKBA to foreign missions in order to progress the process.

Evidence regarding the time-scales and the procedures that need to be followed in the documentation process are essential if a proper assessment is to be made regarding the steps the UKBA may have failed to take, the steps that a detainee can reasonably be expected to take and the period of time that is required for the documentation process to be completed.

BID's Detainee Documentation project will

Provide a set of practical information tools including:
  • A spreadsheet for legal representatives, containing all available information on the documentation procedure by country, available online via BID's website.
  • A documentation toolkit for detainees that will enable detainees who state that they are cooperating with the documentation process to obtain evidence of their cooperation so as to use this in support of their applications for temporary release or bail.
The toolkit will include:
  • a guide to the documentation process
  • standard letters for detainees to send to their embassy, to the Home Ministry or similar in their country of origin, to the Red Cross, to their legal representative, and to their Home Office Case Owner, among others.
At present information held by the Home Office on documentation procedures and requirements for specific countries, and the expected timeframe for embassies and High Commissions in the UK to process travel document applications, is neither publicly available nor shared with detainees or their legal representative (if they have one). We have made a Freedom of Information Act request to the UKBA for this.

Please help us by submitting evidence to BID on:

  1. Documentation procedures and the length of time it takes for such procedures to be completed with respect to individual countries.

  2. Expert reports or comments by experts on issues relating to documentation procedures.

  3. Case outcomes or your legal strategy in cases with detained clients where documentation has been an issue.

We are especially interested in those cases where a person is claiming nationality of the following countries:
Algeria, Morocco, Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Zimbabwe, China, Eritrea, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Jamaica, Liberia and Palestine/OT.

You can send your evidence or comments, preferably by email to or by post to
Pierre Makhlouf
Assistant Director
28 Commercial Street
E1 6LS.
Submissions can be in any format. We want to hear about your experiences with the documentation process.
Please distribute this invitation as widely as possible to colleagues and other organisations.

Details of all submissions will remain anonymous.


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