UK’s moral authority ‘in the gutter’ over ‘hostile environment’ immigration detention, MPs hear

Britain’s treatment of immigrants means it is no better than human rights abusers, a former minister has warned.

Labour’s David Lammy said the country’s moral authority is “in the gutter” as he criticised the Home Office for detaining and imprisoning thousands of people every year, adding survivors of torture and rape were among those affected.

He further argued against the Government’s “hostile environment” approach although said no party has been “innocent”, noting previous Labour administrations should be “ashamed” of its treatment of people under immigration control.

MPs heard 600,000 people live illegally in the UK and will remain in the country regardless of their status, with Mr Lammy (pictured) proposing a “one-off immigration amnesty” to allow the country to start afresh following the Windrush scandal.

Speaking during a Commons debate on immigration control, the Tottenham MP said: “The Home Office has been broken by a public discourse that has got out of control. A xenophobic rhetoric that has become accepted by too many in this House.

“The Ukip-ification of our newspapers, our television and of the Government itself.”

Mr Lammy said the UK has built a proud reputation for liberalism and fairness, but added: “Our treatment of immigrants leaves us no better than the human rights abusers.

“It leaves our moral authority, frankly, in the gutter.

“Government-condoned prejudice permeates every one of an immigrant’s first encounter with the state.

“The Home Office imprisons tens of thousands of people every year, including survivors of torture, trafficking and rape, with no time limit.

“We’re the only EU country which allows indefinite detention of migrants.”

Mr Lammy also said the UK has “one of the slowest and least efficient” immigration processes in the developed world, noting the average stay for detained migrants is one month in France compared to 19 months in the UK.

He said: “Why has detention become the default and why are alternatives never used? Bail with reporting restrictions and electronic monitoring should surely be considered before we lock-up migrants and throw away the keys.”

Immigration minister Caroline Nokes said reviews have been commissioned and improvements made, explaining the Government is exploring alternatives to detention with faith groups, NGOs and communities.

She said: “As a first step, we intend to pilot a scheme to manage vulnerable women in the community who would otherwise have been detained at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre.”

Ms Nokes also said Skype will be trialled so detainees can contact their families overseas, adding: “(Home Secretary Sajid Javid) has asked officials to review how time limits work in other countries and how they relate to other protections within their detention systems to have a better informed debate based on what works to tackle illegal migration and what is humane for those detained.

“Once this is complete, we will further consider the issue of time-limited detention.”

The minister said 95% of people in the “removal pool” are managed in the community, with 63% in immigration removal centres leaving within 28 days and more than 90% within four months.

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