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Home Office faces backlash over immigration detention

The Home Office has been widely criticised by various groups over immigration detention without time limits. The department has, for a long time, refused to introduce a specific time limit for immigration detention.

The government has rejected calls and proposals to end the indefinite incarceration of UK immigrants. It argues that it would severely constrain efforts aimed at ensuring effective control of immigration is maintained.

Calls to introduce a time limit for detained immigrants have been backed by the Human Rights Committee, United Nations, Amnesty International UK, and Red Cross. These bodies are concerned by the trauma caused by indefinite detention and the damaging effects it has on the wellbeing of detainees. 

Currently, the UK is the only member of the European Union that has no statutory time limit to the detention of migrants and runs one of the largest removal centres in the region, Colnbrook. 

The UN mounted pressure on the Home Office to introduce detention time limits and argued that confinement should be under unavoidable situations. The international body recommended the use of detention as a last resort.

The British Red Cross has also supported the time limit proposal after it found cases where asylum seekers had been in detention for more than two years.

At Colnbrook, the indefinite detention has been blamed for increased cases of self-harm despite a considerable decrease in population in the last three years. 

Amnesty International, in its suggestion, argued that detention without a time limit is cruel, inhumane, and affects the mental health of the immigrants.

Many Conservative MPs have also voiced their concerns by condemning the Home Office’s stance on the time limit issue. Terming it as a perverse and bad decision, the leaders urged the department to review the issue with utmost urgency. They blamed the Home Office for treating all detainees as criminals and imposing indeterminate sentences instead of improving its deportation policy and administration. 

In its defence, the Home Office has always argued that detention without time limits maintains the balance and effectiveness of immigration control. It argues that introducing a time limit will possibly incentivise abuse of the immigration system and subsequently put public safety at risk.

There is likely to be increased criticism towards the Home Office in the coming weeks, fuelled by cases of human rights violation and limited access to legal aid associated with the indefinite detention.

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