SDV director, Kate Alexander, looks at the latest detention figures
In January 2016, Stephen Shaw’s report into the welfare in detention of vulnerable people called for the UK Government to reduce the use of immigration detention ‘boldly and without delay’.
Today, 18 months since the publication of his report and the Government’s subsequent promise of reform, and a week before Shaw begins his second review, the latest Home Office figures on detention call into question the boldness of the response so far.
- In the year to 30 June 2017, 27,821 people entered immigration detention in the UK. This is fewer than in the previous year, but nearly 28,000 people deprived of their liberty at the stroke of a civil servant’s pen is no cause for celebration.
- Fewer people left detention than in the previous year meaning that, even though fewer people entered detention, more people were in detention at the end of June 2017 (2,994) than at the same time in 2016 (2,878).
- In a continuation of a pattern that has existed for years, the majority of people leaving detention in the quarter ending 30 June 2017 (52%, 3,300 people) were released back into the community. What was the purpose of their detention? At a cost to the tax payer of £86 per person per day, and incalculable personal cost to themselves.
- Of grave concern is the continued use of long-term detention. Over half of the people detained at 30 June 2017 (56%) had been in detention for more than 28 days. Eighty people had been detained for over a year. One man had been in detention for more than four years.
If this is a bold response, it would be interesting to see a timid one. To us it looks like business as usual.
The UK Government knows what it must do.It must introduce a 28-day time limit on detention as recommended more than two years ago by the Detention Inquiry and it must work with civil society to introduce a range of community-based alternatives to detention.
Only radical reform will deliver the drastic reduction in the use of detention envisaged by Shaw.