Personal Immigration

Red Cross calls for end to indefinite detention in UK immigration system

The British Red Cross has become the first major charity to call for an overhaul of the UK immigration detention system, with proposed policy changes including a 28 day maximum detention time for migrants and asylum seekers.

Figures obtained by the charity via freedom of information requests showed that of the asylum seekers who were released from detention in 2016 – some 14,733 people – a shocking 42% had been detained for a period longer than one month. 10% of those released had been held for up to six months.

In a report on conditions within the UK immigration detention centres, the British Red Cross interviewed 26 detained migrants, of which 25 said that they were not given access to any mental health support while detained. 5 of the interviewed detainees had attempted suicide while in the detention centres.

The Chief Executive of the British Red Cross, Mike Adamson, called the system of indefinite detention “damaging”, and called for a change to the UK’s policy of detaining migrants without notice when they turn up to Immigration Reporting Centres.

Adamson said: “The threat of detention without notice hangs over many people going through the asylum process in the UK. Our research shows that not knowing whether this week will be the week they are detained again can make the process of having to report regularly extremely distressing.”

The calls for change are gathering momentum across the UK, with the prisons watchdog describing conditions in the migrant detention centres as “prison-like” and the Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott, calling the Red Cross report a “damning indictment” of the UK Government’s treatment of asylum seekers and immigrants. Inspectors from HMI Prisons have also joined the campaign for a limit on detention times, warning of a “deep level of emotional distress” among those detained.

The UK is currently the only EU country without a legal time limit on the detention of migrants.

In response to the report, and to address mounting criticism, a spokesperson commented that the Home Office had “noted the recommendations from the report, while also recognising the small sample used.”

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