House of Lords Debate on Immigration Detention Centres and Deportation

Lord Hylton

This happened on Wednesday 4th November 2009 and is fully reported in Hansard, cols 317 – 331.

I give below my opening paragraphs, and two paragraphs from the government’s reply by Lord West of Spithead, a Home Office minister.  There were four other speakers.

“My Lords, I start from the proposition that it is wrong to lock up parents and children who have committed no crimes in this country.  To do so when they have little or no legal advice, and for periods of unknown length, is doubly bad.  Those affected are mainly asylum applicants who have not succeeded in being recognised as refugees.  They also include people who have overstayed their leave to remain.  All of them may already have been here for years, and have married here and produced children.  All may  have very real fears of what might happen to them if they are removed to their countries of origin whatever the Government may say about memoranda of understanding.

Political persecution, tribal and personal vendettas, and sexual and gender crime persist in all too many countries.  A recent joint report from the Scottish Refugee Council emphasises the sufferings of women, both in their home countries and after their arrival here.  That council recommends that the UK Border Agency should identify vulnerable and traumatised women from the start so that they may receive appropriate care.  UKBA should also screen out from the detention process pregnant women, all mental health cases, as well as torture survivors. 

In the second quarter of this year, 235 children were detained.  About 7,000 persons entered detention in each quarter this year almost balanced by those leaving.  Two hundred and fifty-five had been detained for between six and 12 months, and 225 for over a year.”

reply:  “Our policy as a Government on detention is clear.  Although there is a presumption in favour of granting temporary admission, detention may be appropriate in several circumstances.  It may be appropriate in order to effect removal, or while a person’s identity and claim are being established, which my goodness me, is sometimes extremely difficult.  I am not sure if it  was the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, of the noble Lord, Lord Best, who talked about Malawi passports, but it is sometimes difficult and long-winded to establish someone’s identity; you have to remember that these people are fighting not to be identified.  Detention may be appropriate where a person presents a risk of abscond – some people have done that in the past when being held – or where an asylum application is capable of being done very quickly, which has been touched on as well.

 Detention should be used sparingly and for the shortest period necessary.  We believe that that is especially true in the case of families with children, and that is reflected in our practice of not detaining families with children, until close to their planned removal from the UK; they are usually detained just a few days before removal.  There are some exceptions, but that is normally the case.”


2 comments for “House of Lords Debate on Immigration Detention Centres and Deportation

  1. Carl Holbrough
    10/11/2009 at 1:50 pm

    Logic states we cannot afford to accept in this Country the entire Worlds aggrieved so a line MUST be drawn. Someone in our absence has to judge.

    By means of Charity, Government grants and indeed the blood of our children we are trying our utmost to stop the persecution of all peoples in other Countries. We cannot though carry on allowing our Country and people to suffer in the name of Christian charity. With the rise in population, the housing crisis, which is extremely real, and enviromental problems it would be suicide to allow immigration levels to rise further.

    Whilst I agree that detention seemingly without end is against our ethic, I cannot see a better way. The only alternative is refuse entry and force repatriation instantly. As the Noble Lord states this maybe condemning these persons to a fate worse than death.

    Our detention centres are, I believe humane, they attend the needs of these people admirably. They receive, at no cost to themselves, shelter, food and other such things without labour. If the freedoms of the UK is their ultimate goal for them and their family and they have honestly undergone the ghastly scenarios that his Lordship alludes to, then this will be no test for them. Indeed would they not feel grateful for the protection and shelter ?

    We must be mindful that a majority of these people would simply disappear into the UK without these centres. That a great deal of resources, resources that are needed elsewhere, would need to be ploughed into finding them if at all possible.

    If one lives in a one bedroom flat you cannot possibly expect to invite all the people who live rough in London to come and abide with you, no matter how charitable you are.

    Already in this Country our children are unable to find housing. With the average 3 bed house price in the South reaching £180k yet local wages at £15k it is impossible for our children to attain their own independence. Council housing is virtually unatainable because a refugee or immigrant will always have worse circumstances than the average UK youngster. The way forward for a lot is to become pregnant for no other reason than to attain more points and get housed by local Councils. The fact that parents are seeing this, is breeding animosity, racism and votes for the BNP.

    The World, unfortunately, is not an ideal place. These people that are detained I believe have the right to go free or remain in the UK. Everyone at some point suffers to reach an ultimate goal. If the goal of life free from the abhorrent trauma`s these people suggest they have or will suffer, is detention in humane, modern, free conditions for a short period, not preferable than the alternate whilst judgement is made on evidence given ?

  2. Carl Holbrough
    13/11/2009 at 8:26 am

    This BBC blog may be of interest.

    Please remember the Beebs way of moderating is to try to keep both views equal, so a lot of posts would not have got through moderation.

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