Backbench Business — Immigration Detention

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 12:24 pm on 10th September 2015.

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Photo of Jeremy Lefroy Jeremy Lefroy Conservative, Stafford 12:24 pm, 10th September 2015

It is an honour to follow Fiona Mactaggart, who has a proud record on these matters. It is also an honour to speak in front of the Minister, who is a compassionate and decent man and who, I believe, will be listening carefully to all these arguments, and an honour to follow some excellent speeches. I will speak briefly to make two points.

As my hon. Friend Mr Burrowes said, this year we are commemorating the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. A major part of Magna Carta is the right of people not to be detained indefinitely and not to be detained without due cause. We need to bear that in mind. Clearly, there are cases where people need to be returned, but I did not realise that 30,000 people a year are facing detention on that basis. That is extraordinary. There must be other ways to do this.

If we detain someone in a police cell, we require the police to bring them before a court extremely quickly. We require the police to work night and day to find the evidence that justifies holding them. In immigration detention cases we do not require the system to work night and day because such people can be detained indefinitely. The first thing I ask, as others have done, is that the case work system be improved and that the Home Office has a responsibility to work night and day on these cases where it is depriving people of their liberty. I agree that a limit—whether 28 days or something else—should be in place to ensure that that happens, with a proviso, perhaps, that in extremely serious cases officials could come before a magistrate to ask for additional days if that were necessary. The onus would then be on the Home Office to do the work and do it quickly.

My second point arises from a case of a deportation to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in which I became involved a couple of years ago. Sometimes we treat countries as if they were one. We say that they are okay for people to be returned to or not. There are many instances where there are differing circumstances within a country, depending on the religion of the person, for example, or perhaps they have no religion. Perhaps they are gay. The country may officially be on the list from the Home Office or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of countries to which it is in order for people to be returned, but for that particular person it may be a matter of life and death. If they are returned to that country, they may face immediate arrest, even though that country is on the approved list from the Home Office. I ask the Home Office to work much more closely with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to find out precisely the circumstances that might pertain to people who fall into minority groups and who may be of that nationality, but will not face a welcome in their own country when they return.