Group backs call to cut immigration detention

Haslar immigration removal centre in Gosport
Haslar immigration removal centre in Gosport
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A CALL to limit the number of days people can be detained in immigration centres has been backed by a charity that visits locked-up detainees.

Anne Dickinson, co-ordinator from Portsmouth-based Friends Without Borders, said the recommendation for a 28-day limit was long overdue.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees and the APPG on Migration published a joint inquiry into use of immigration detention last week.

It comes after a man was locked up in Haslar Immigration Removal Centre, Gosport, for more than three years.

Ms Dickinson said: ‘It’s very long overdue, it’s an excellent suggestion.

‘Most other European countries have put a time limit. The fact we have not done so is rather remiss of us.’

Criteria for detention said it should be ‘reasonable in all circumstances’.

The report had four key points:

n Limit the amount of time anyone can be kept in immigration detention to 28 days.

n Use more community-based resolutions instead of detention.

n Detaining people should be very rare and only to effect removal.

n Government should introduce a wider range of alternatives.

The panellists, led by inquiry chair Liberal Democrat Sarah Teather MP, said the 28-day time limit should not become the default amount of time someone should be detained.

The inquiry report recommends that judicial oversight, automatic bail hearings or a statutory presumption that detention be used for the shortest time possible should be put in place.

In Ireland, detention is limited to 21 days, in France to 45 days, in Belgium two months, in Portugal to 60 days and in America 180 days.

Ms Dickinson said long-term detention damages family relationships.

She added: ‘When you are in prison you count the days down.

‘When you’re in immigration detention you count the days up. You don’t have anything to hold on to.’

The report recommended the current blanket ban on social media in centres should be replaced with filters, similar to parental controls.

In Haslar, Skype and social media was blocked but a local officer could unblock access for detainees.

Detainees should also not be moved between centres unless absolutely necessary and the Home Office should publish such data.