Over half of immigration detainees enduring ‘pointless cruelty’ before being released

More than half of the people held in an immigration detention centre during a six-month period were then released back into the community instead of being deported.

Campaigners branded the detention “pointless cruelty” and a waste of taxpayer funds as the figure was revealed in a report about Brook House Immigration Removal Centre by the chief inspector of prisons.

Between October and March, 1,901 detainees left the centre. Of these, 742 were deported from the UK but more – 858 – were released into the community while 301 were transferred to other detention centres, Peter Clarke’s report said.

Rudy Schulkind, research and policy co-ordinator at charity Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID), told the PA news agency: “Not only is immigration detention excessively harmful and expensive, but it consistently fails to achieve its stated purpose.

“The Home Office tells us time and again that detention is only used as a last resort to effect removal, but these figures tell a different story.

“Putting people through the trauma of detention only to release them again weeks, months or years later is pointless cruelty by a government department that urgently needs to be restrained.

“In no other context is the deprivation of liberty treated so casually.”

Speaking to PA, James Wilson, acting director of Detention Action, said it showed the detention had served “no purpose” and “wasted taxpayer money” when those held are released into the community afterwards.

He added: “This is what happens when the government operates a system with no statutory criteria for who gets locked up, no time limit and Home Office officials making the decisions without proper oversight from judges.”

Mr Wilson accused the Government of failing to listen to “sensible reforms” that had already been proposed by MPs, adding: “This report notes a number of welcome improvements within Brook House itself, but is yet another damning indictment of the government’s controversial policy of indefinite immigration detention.”

Inspectors found the average length of detention had “markedly declined” with fewer detainees being held and for shorter periods.

But the report found 11 people were kept in custody for more than six months and two for more than a year – the longest consecutive detention being a year and eight months.

Inspectors called for a “strict time limit” on the length of detention.

Concerns were also raised about a “disproportionate restriction” on detainees when locked in their cells and inspectors said they should be allowed free movement around the centre until later in the evening.

Some were kept in custody when suitable accommodation could not be found when they were due to be released while others were left homeless, the report found.

“Neither the Home Office nor G4S kept records of detainees being released homeless and could not quantify the extent of the problem,” it said.

Mr Clarke told the Home Office it should keep records of the number of detainees who are homeless on release.

Mr Schulkind added: “It is quite startling to read that the Home Office does not consider this issue worthy of monitoring.”

While Mr Wilson said: “Any system in which people are ever held in immigration detention centres simply because they have nowhere else to go or are locked up pointlessly only to be released into homelessness is one that is fundamentally not fit for purpose.”

People may be released from detention for reasons including being granted bail, lodging appeals and taking part in other legal proceedings or “there may have been a material change in their circumstances”, the Home Office said.

“Several recommendations made in the previous HM Inspectorate of Prisons report were rejected by the Home Office for reasons of practicality or policy.

“The implementation of other accepted recommendations is being robustly tracked and progressed,” the department added.

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