UN Refugee Agency urge UK Government end indefinite immigration detention

The UK should end the indefinite detention of immigrants, the UN refugee agency has urged.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has pledged to look at the issue and plans to review how time limits on the detention of immigrants work in other countries.

The UNHCR’s assistant high commissioner Volker Turk said he hoped that the study would result in limits being put in place, with detention only used as a “last resort”.

Mr Turk told the Press Association he was “very encouraged” by Mr Javid’s commitment.

“If, indeed, detention is unavoidable and it is the last resort that it is meant to be, there needs to be a time limitation put to it,” he said.

“I think we hope very much that in the course of this study … that indeed time limits would be the outcome.”

In the Commons on Tuesday, Mr Javid (pictured) told MPs he wanted a detention policy “based on not only what works to tackle illegal migration, but what is humane for those who are detained” and promised that once the review is complete he would “further consider the issue of time limits on immigration detention”.

Mr Turk said he was “heartened” by an apparent shift in public opinion in the UK on the issue of migrants.

The response to the Windrush scandal and the pressure which helped push David Cameron’s government to accept 20,000 Syrian refugees in 2015 were examples of that, he said.

“I do detect more understanding, more empathy, more engagement on the part of the vast majority of people.”

He added: “A lot of British holidaymakers now go to the Mediterranean and it is sad to see that the Mediterranean – which has been such a symbol of unity between different continents – Asia, Africa, Europe, a symbol of the root of so much of our culture – has become so divisive on the migration issue.

“My wish is that this inspires people to think about this. Indifference is not the answer.”

Although the number of migrants risking the journey across the Mediterranean has declined markedly since a peak in 2015, around 1,300 have died or gone missing so far this year attempting the crossing.

Mr Turk said the situation was being exploited by the far right and by European politicians keen to use refugees as a “scapegoat” for economic or political grievances.

“If one looks at the Mediterranean and the debate about the Mediterranean in Europe you have the impression that there are hundreds of thousands of people waiting on the other side who want to cross, but that’s not correct,” he said.

“Today some politicians use the emotions and the fear as political currency in a number of countries in Europe in order to instil a false sense of reality.”

The ongoing war in Syria and the Rohingya crisis which has seen hundreds of thousands of people flee Burma for Bangladesh are among the other situations being dealt with by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The ongoing trend of people being forced to flee their homes around the globe “reflects a world in disarray”, Mr Turk said.

As part of international efforts to address the issue, a new UN global compact on refugees is expected to be adopted later this year.

Mr Turk said: “We did manage to arrive at a broad consensus on responsibility sharing at the global level, and it really has to sink in.

“We hope that this is the new way of working together globally on an issue that is fundamentally international.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Joe Giddens / PA Wire.