In this blogpost SDV director Kate Alexander looks at the latest detention figures: the last to be released before the General Election 

Figures released today reveal that on 31 March 2017, one man had been detained for 1,423 days. That’s nearly four years.  

He was in detention when Lee Rigby was killed in London in May 2013. He was in detention when Nelson Mandela died in December 2013.  He was in detention when the referendum on Scottish Independence was held in September 2014.  He was in detention when the last General Election was held in May 2015.  And he was still in detention on 31 March 2017.

Just think about what you have done in those four years.

Official statistics don’t tell us anything more about this man: about his life, his family, his community. Neither do they tell us when he will be released. Because, uniquely in Europe, the UK still has no time limit on immigration detention.

But here’s what they do tell us:  

On the same day, he was one of 2,930 people in immigration detention in the UK , one of 81 people who had been detained for more than a year, and one of 1,653 people who had been detained for more than 28 days

In the year ending 31 March 2017, 28,980 men and women entered immigration detention. That’s more than the population of many Scottish towns: Clydebank, Bathgate, Grangemouth and St Andrews, to name a few. Each one of those people lived in fear that they, too, could be detained for years.

The majority of people leaving detention are released back into the community: 52% in the year to 31 March 2017. That’s 15,153 men and women. For people leaving detention from Dungavel, the equivalent figures are 73% or 940 men and women.

It costs £86.08 a day to hold someone in detention. That’s £31,419 a year.

It’s small wonder then that in March 2015, the Detention Inquiry by UK parliamentarians concluded that the system was ‘expensive, ineffective and unjust’. It called for a 28 day time limit on detention and a move to community based alternatives.

Since then, calls for reform have grown louder. The Shaw Review of 2016 echoed many of the inquiry’s findings and called for reforms that would drastically reduce the use of detention. Organisations as diverse as HM Inspectorate of Constabulary Scotland, Liberty and HM Inspectorate of Prisons have recognised the harm of indefinite detention and called for a time limit. At the same time, evidence is increasing that community based alternatives work: they’re cheaper, more effective and more humane.

On 8 June, we’ll go to the polls for the General Election – the second since the publication of the Detention Inquiry. In their manifestos the Labour Party, The Liberal Democrats and the Green Party in England and Wales have all pledged to end indefinite detention. The Conservative manifesto continues the party’s hard-line approach to immigration but says nothing specific about detention. The SNP has yet to publish their manifesto.

But it is important that the individual MPs we elect know this matters to us. You can find out how to contact your candidates here. Tweet them, email them and write to them. They may not know anything about immigration detention so you can direct them to our briefing papers and to Detention Forum and Right to Remain.

We do not want someone detained today to be there 1,423 days from now. On 17 April 2021.

Tell your candidates it’s #Time4aTimeLimit.

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