In a move that has been welcomed by many detention NGOs, national human rights bodies such as Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR) have highlighted immigration detention as one of the key human rights issues in the UK in their submissions to the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council.
Immigration detention was one of the 22 human rights issues covered by EHRC’s UPR submission. The submission states that EHRC is “concerned with safeguards of the detained fast track system for individuals pending asylum decisions and the length of time people can spend in detention awaiting removal.” It goes on to mention a wide range of problems such as provision of mental health and interpretation services and detention of vulnerable people.
BIHR’s voluntary-sector-wide submission cited data from Yarl’s Wood Befrienders: the group assisted 32 women claiming to be victims of torture or trafficking detained at Yarls Wood Immigration Removal Centre in 2011. It was endorsed by a number of supporters of The Detention Forum.
A large number of detention NGOs, such as Gatwick Detainee Welfare Group, Dover Detainee Visitor Group, Association for Visitors to Immigration Detainees, Bail for Immigration Detainees, Detention Action, Yarl’s Wood Befrienders and Campaign to Close Campsfield, also provided submissions which often dealt with some of the specific detention issues in depth.
Detention featured prominently in other human rights NGOs’ submissions. The Equal Rights Trust focussed on detention of stateless persons, while René Cassin recommended a strict time limit on detention to reduce long-term detention. Freedom from Torture raised their concern that victims of torture are routinely detained despite the safeguards put in place by the UK Border Agency and called for the abolition of the Detained Fast Track.
The Universal Period Review’s oral examination of the UK Government will take place in May 2012.