Source: The Independent
A damning new analysis of Britain’s “broken” immigration system reveals how two-thirds of people held in immigration removal centres for years at a time are never deported. Large numbers of detainees are from countries where diplomatic barriers make it near impossible to return them, according to a new study, published tomorrow.
Instead of being released until the situation changes, migrants are being kept behind bars for indefinite stretches. The policy has been criticised as costly and an abuse of human rights.
The report, No Return No Release No Reason, from the London Detainee Support Group (LDSG) traced 167 people detained for an average of 25 months and found that only one in three were ever deported.
Nearly half the detainees were from four countries, Algeria, Iran, Iraq and Somalia, all of which had barriers in the way of the detainees’ return: Somalis, for example, cannot be deported while the European Court of Human Rights considers the dangers that might be faced by those returned.
Eight people were held for more than four years, with no decision taken on their case at all. Two people died of terminal illness shortly after being released from detention – neither could be removed to their countries of origin, Somalia and Zimbabwe. One died the day after his release. He had been detained for 23 months.
In one case, the Home Office paid a British citizen £100,000 in compensation after he was unlawfully detained for 18 months. Mr J was detained and threatened with deportation to Somalia, although he came to the UK as a small child. He protested throughout his detention that he was British, as his father was a British citizen. He was only released after his solicitors threatened court action. High Court judges have five times ordered the Home Office to release Somali nationals who had been detained between one and three years.
Jerome Phelps, the LDSG’s director, said: “It makes no sense for the Home Office to detain migrants for years until the High Court orders their release. While public services face sweeping cuts, immigration detention continues to waste vast amounts of public money, damaging migrants’ lives to no purpose. The coalition has agreed to end the detention of children, but this broken detention system needs reform in its entirety.”
A former chief inspector of prisons, Lord Ramsbotham, said of the report: “Winston Churchill said the way in which it treated crime and criminals was a true test of the civilisation of any country. Most asylum- and immigration-seekers have committed no crime, which makes how they are treated an even starker test. In all too many respects, I fear that the way in which this country treats such people does not warrant an epithet which we were once proud to claim throughout the world.”
It costs £68,000 a year to hold someone in Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre, where the majority of those held for extended periods are kept. Some await deportation after being convicted of crimes, but end up being detained indefinitely after serving a sentence because they can’t be returned to their country of origin.
David Wood, strategic director of the criminality and detention group, UK Border Agency, said: “We seek to remove those people with no legal right to be in the UK as quickly as possible and detention is only used for the shortest possible time.”