Immigration Detention: Shaw Review - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:52 pm on 24th July 2018.

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Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport) 3:52 pm, 24th July 2018

I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. I cannot say that I have read the Shaw report. I was probably in a very similar situation to the Minister, in that I received it only an hour or so ago. Inevitably, that rather restricts what one can say about it. One thing that I have noticed is that, under the acknowledgements at the beginning and in the foreword by Stephen Shaw, there is a date: April 2018. Why is this report being brought to Parliament only in July 2018 and on the last day, effectively the last afternoon, before the Summer Recess? What exactly has been going on since then, if I am correct in thinking that he submitted his report in April 2018, which has prevented the report being published?

The report that we have—this second Stephen Shaw report into immigration detention—does not say that everything is right. It simply says that the situation is better than it was, which is a very different thing. The report is not quite the supportive document that the Statement seems to suggest. Let us look at one or two of the points made in the report.

Last year, it seems that 64% of those detained left detention within a month, and 91% left within four months. It depends on what one’s definition is, but detention was meant to be only for a short period of time, pending removal. Last year it was found that over half of those in immigration detention were released back into the community—a point made by Stephen Shaw in this report. So if more than half in immigration detention were released back into the community, why was their detention needed at all? The Government’s Statement says that,

“immigration detention is only for those for whom we are confident that other approaches to removal will not work”.

We are talking about large numbers of people who are detained and not removed but are released back into the community. A number of people seem to be detained who should not be, which is a point made by Stephen Shaw in this report.

Stephen Shaw comments on the issue of indefinite detention and time limits, saying:

“I have not directly considered the case for a time limit on detention”,

so we do not actually know what his view is on that issue. But he says in his foreword that,

“the number of people held for over six months has actually increased. The time that many people spend in detention remains deeply troubling”.

That is a point that I do not think was highlighted in the Government’s Statement on the report. Why has the number of people held for over six months increased? Do the Government agree with Stephen Shaw that the time that many people spend in detention remains deeply troubling?

Virtually all the population reduction in immigration has been on the male side, while the number of women in detention has fallen by a much smaller percentage. Yet there is a high level of vulnerability among women detainees—the very people one would have thought should not have been detained. Can the Minister say why that has happened?

The report deals at some length with the adults at risk policy. It was introduced by the Home Office and does not appear to be working properly in its objective of reducing the numbers of vulnerable people in detention. In his visits to immigration removal centres, Stephen Shaw found many people who he felt should not be there, and he comments in his report that,

“every one of the centre managers told me that they had seen no difference in the number of vulnerable detainees”,

and that in some cases the numbers had gone up. He also calls for,

“a more joined-up approach between the Home Office and its partners across Government”,

which, he says,

“applies particularly to the Ministry of Justice”.

In the section in the report on alternatives to detention, Stephen Shaw draws attention to some of the consequences of the policies restricting access to services that go under the umbrella of the hostile environment, which I believe has now been rebranded as the compliant environment. While he says in his foreword:

“Some of what I say in the pages that follow reflects very well upon the Home Office, the Department of Health and Social Care, and NHS England”,

he goes on to say that:

“I have found a gap between the laudable intentions of policymakers and actual practice on the ground”.

He also comments that,

“the Home Office’s strategy of expanding capacity by adding extra beds into existing rooms had exacerbated overcrowding and created unacceptable conditions”.

Why has the Home Office’s strategy led to the arising of that situation, upon which Mr Shaw has commented adversely? He repeats again in his report his concern that,

“more needs to be done to ensure that individuals who are at risk are not detained”.

I conclude by raising three questions for the Government in addition to those I have already asked. We are in a situation where the Chief Inspector of Prisons, the all-party parliamentary groups on migration and on refugees, the Bar Council, the British Medical Association and NGOs have all called for an end to indefinite detention. Do I take it from the Statement that the Government are still not prepared to commit to that objective? Perhaps the Minister could confirm that one way or the other.

I think I am also right in saying that the previous review called for an absolute exclusion on pregnant women in detention. But as I understand it, in 2017, 53 pregnant women were detained, almost all of them entirely unnecessarily, and were subsequently released into the community. If pregnant women are still being detained, will the Government commit now to an absolute exclusion of pregnant women and children from immigration detention? There is also currently no proactive screening process so that survivors of sexual and gender-based violence and others who are recognised as vulnerable under the adults at risk policy are identified before they are detained. Will the Government commit to introduce a proactive screening process to achieve this objective?

Finally, now that we have had the follow-up Shaw review, how will the Government ensure that the detention estate continues to be reviewed and assessed? I note that the Statement made reference to the review of the adults at risk policy, but there is more to it than simply that policy, vital and important though it is, so I ask that question once again—bearing in mind that the Shaw review has once again said that the situation is far from what it should be.