‘Cruel and unnecessary’: immigration detention during the pandemic

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‘Cruel and unnecessary’: immigration detention during the pandemic

Barbed wire, Flickr under creative comms licence, Terry Freeman

One in seven immigration detainees were detained for over a year with the longest period of detention over 20 months – or the equivalent to three years and four months’ prison sentence. The latest statistics from Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) reveal that 95% of the group’s cases had been successfully granted bail since the lockdown began.

According to BID, the findings show that the Home Office has demonstrated a number of failings in its approach to bail hearings during the pandemic. The group examined the reasons given by the Home Office to detain people and to oppose bail during the lockdown and whether the Home Office’s claim to be primarily detaining ‘high-harm individuals’ was borne out by the facts. It found a ‘high risk of harm’ was only claimed in nine of 42 cases; and in 27 cases the Home Office relied only on an applicant’s previous offending to support its allegation that the individual presented a risk of harm. More than half of the applicants (23) were accepted by the Home Office to be ‘adults at risk’ in detention. Whilst detention is to be used for the purpose of removal, the Home Office referred to the current travel restrictions in just seven cases.

At the end of April, the Home Office wrote to the President of the First-tier Tribunal, expressing ‘surprise’ at the level of grants of bail in recent weeks in what was seen, according to BID, as ‘an attempt to influence the independent judiciary’. The president of the tribunal reminded the Home Office that the courts decide bail applications in accordance with the law, and criticised the Home Office’s approach to bail applications.

‘This research lays bare a catalogue of failings in the Home Office’s approach to detention decision-making. Immigration detention is already an inhumane system where people can be locked up indefinitely without trial,’ commented BID Director, Celia Clarke. ‘Its use during COVID-19 places detainees, staff, and indeed the country, at risk. It is both cruel and unnecessary and must be ended as a matter of urgency.’