New Clause 1 - Detention of persons – exempted persons

Part of Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 10th November 2015.

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Photo of Anne McLaughlin Anne McLaughlin Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Civil Liberties) 4:00 pm, 10th November 2015

As a last resort. I have never said that we should never detain anybody, but detention is to be used as a last resort. In fact, I think the Minister himself said that the power to detain should be exercised only sparingly and for the shortest possible time. I do not know whether that is the case, but it should be the case.

If it is for the shortest possible time, that is a good argument for having a time limit in statute. I agree with the hon. Member for Sheffield Central, who said—I think the report of the inquiry into the use of immigration detention in the UK also made the point—that, without a time limit, the casework will suffer. We are all human beings. I am a deadlines kind of person; I do things at the deadline. I would love to be the kind of person who does things in preparation for a deadline, and I am always telling myself that I will be that kind of person, but we are all human and we all work to deadlines. If there is no deadline, of course things take a lot longer.

I also wanted to say something about the categories of people who could not be detained if the new clause were accepted. They would include people who have been trafficked. In an earlier sitting, several Conservative Members and I had a debate about people allowing themselves to be trafficked. I was pretty upset at the time, as were a lot of people, but I realise now how that misunderstanding came about: it is because there is an awful lot of talk in the media about people trafficking when it is actually people smuggling. I accept that is not the fault of the people who pick up the term, but the language that we use is extremely important. If we all accept that trafficking involves coercion and is done against the person’s will and that those people have effectively been kidnapped, I hope that we can accept that detention is an absolutely dreadful experience for them and affects them even more severely. I certainly support not detaining that group of people.

On the assisted returns project, I reassure the Minister, as I have said, that I understand that sometimes people must be detained. I also understand that sometimes they must be deported—removed from this country—because not everyone is entitled to live here. If that is done, it is far better to continue with schemes such as the family returns project. I have constituents and friends who do not want to return because their memories are of the country that they came from as it was when they left. All they need is reassurance from somebody that  they trust that it is not the way it was, that it is safe for them and that there will be provisions and protections for them.

Most people who come to live in this country do so in such circumstances. They do not come here because they desperately want to live here. Most people would rather live in the country that they have come from. In leaving, they are leaving their family, their friends, their neighbourhood and the school that they went to. Most people do not want to give that up. Sometimes they need reassurance that they will be protected and that life is very different in the country that we are returning them to. That is why the approach must not be to criminalise them, lock them up or refuse to tell them when or if they will be leaving. The approach should be more humane than that, and should be about working with them rather than against them.