Government rejects time limits on ‘arbitrary and unfair’ indefinite immigration detention

The Government has rejected calls for a time limit on immigration detention as an MP said Home Office detention is “arbitrary” and “unfair”.

Harriet Harman, chairwoman of the Human Rights Committee, said immigration detention “breaches human rights” after the Home Office rejected calls for the introduction of a 28-day limit on the time immigrants can be detained.

A report from the committee said: “Indefinite detention causes distress and anxiety and can trigger mental illness and exacerbate mental health conditions where they already exist.

“Moreover, the lack of a time limit on immigration detention reduces the incentive for the Home Office to progress cases promptly which would reduce both the impact on detainees and detention costs.”

The committee said the recommendation to introduce a time limit has been rejected, with the Home Office saying most people detained under immigration powers spend “only short periods in detention”.

Ms Harman (pictured) said: “Home Office immigration detention is arbitrary, unfair and breaches human rights.

“Repeated detention and release, which characterises the system, shows that it must be reformed.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “No-one is detained indefinitely. Most people detained under immigration powers spend only short periods in detention.

“We have made significant improvements recently, but we are committed to doing more and introducing further alternatives to detention, increasing transparency and improving the support available for vulnerable detainees.”

Ms Harman added: “Parliament will have the opportunity to consider changing the law to protect people from arbitrary detention when the Immigration Bill is brought back.

“I’m hopeful that with the strong cross-party backing for the proposals from our committee and the Home Affairs Committee it will do so.”

The committee also raised concerns about a “good character requirement” for children over 10 who could be barred from British citizenship because of minor offences.

In a report the committee said: “The Home Office has again been unable to explain or justify why the good character test is applied to children who have grown up all their lives in the UK and know no other country.

“We are concerned that this policy is preventing children whose only real connection is with the UK from becoming British – contrary to the intention behind the ‘entitlement’ route to British citizenship for children who have grown up in the UK.

“In particular, we are most concerned that this is affecting children as young as 10 years old who have lived all of their lives in the UK.”

Ms Harman added: “The Home Office has made some welcome concessions in response to our report, but it is unacceptable that children who are born in the UK and grow up here their whole lives, being British to all who would meet them, are considered by the Home Office to be on a par with those moving to the UK well into adulthood and without those strong cultural and identity links with the UK.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Lynne Cameron / PA Wire.