Backbench Business — Immigration Detention

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 12:12 pm on 10th September 2015.

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Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley 12:12 pm, 10th September 2015

I am conscious that a number of hon. Members wish to contribute to this debate, so I will keep my remarks brief. I congratulate the all-party groups on migration and on refugees on securing this debate, and on taking the time to compile their report.

My constituents in Crawley are concerned about high levels of immigration, but they are also compassionate about vulnerable people who come to this country seeking asylum and refuge. As Members across the House will be aware, the issue has been particularly highlighted over the summer with the Syrian refugee crisis, and people have expressed concern about people entering this country, but also compassion for the welfare and well-being of the victims of dictators, traffickers and terrorist groups. My hon. Friend Mr Burrowes is right to say that this week we have had a great opportunity to discuss aspects of those important matters.

I will confine my remaining remarks to immigration detention and removal centres in my constituency. We have Brook House and Tinsley House immigration removal centres, and on the outskirts of my constituency is the Cedars pre-departure accommodation centre. Before I was elected to this place I was leader of West Sussex county council with a social care responsibility, and I remember visiting those immigration detention centres in the last decade and being shocked—at the time there was a backlog of more than 450,000 cases being dealt with in this country—at some of the conditions in those centres. I was particularly troubled when I came to the family block in those centres, and I pay tribute to the previous coalition Government for announcing in May 2010 that children would not be held in immigration detention centres, and for following through on that. The Cedars centre on the periphery of my constituency has done great work in co-ordination with Barnardo’s and we now have the lowest ever number of children in immigration detention, which I welcome. I believe that in May this year that number stood at 12, down from a significant high of several hundred children being detained in 2009.

I welcome the Government’s review of immigration detention that will be led by Stephen Shaw, the former head of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman for England and Wales. I am confident that that report, aided by the good work of hon. Members across the House, will come forward with some conclusions on how immigration detention can be effective to ensure an effective immigration policy, compassionate to ensure that the most vulnerable people are properly supported, and, as my hon. Friend Richard Fuller said, cost effective. This issue is top of the agenda for many of our constituents, and we must get it right. I have confidence that the Home Secretary and the Immigration Minister will properly address this issue.

Finally, I pay tribute to the Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group, which is based in Crawley. It does fantastic work, and I am grateful for the briefings it gives me. We are truly fortunate to have the dedication of many people in such groups and in immigration removal centres, as they provide the best possible support to those in immigration detention.