New Clause 1 - Detention of persons – exempted persons

Part of Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:15 pm on 10th November 2015.

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Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Shadow Minister (Home Office) 4:15 pm, 10th November 2015

I will speak very briefly to the new clauses, because they seem logical and non-contentious. I am particularly pleased that they have been tabled in a cross-party manner and that they were developed from a cross-party inquiry by the all-party groups on refugees and on migration. They build on existing legislation, such the Modern Slavery Act 2015; that is particularly true of new clause 1.

We whizzed through all the new clauses and amendments, so I want to read the explanatory statement to new clause 1, which

“would provide that pregnant women, victims of trafficking, torture and sexual violence, and any other group prescribed by the Secretary of State, may not be detained pending an examination or decision by an immigration officer.”

I hope that the groups prescribed by the Secretary of State would include vulnerable adults, particularly those with a learning age that is deemed to be under 18.

I want to focus on women, pre-empting some of the arguments that Ministers might make against the measures, particularly new clause 1. The organisation Women For Refugee Women has said that 72% of asylum seekers have been raped as part of the persecution that they are fleeing, and almost all have been victims of gender-related persecution. I ask the Minister to consider that. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees detention guidelines state:

“Victims of torture and other serious physical, psychological or sexual violence also need special attention and should generally not be detained.”

I would also like to draw to the Committee’s attention the work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which is working hard to end sexual violence in conflict by protecting survivors and actively prosecuting perpetrators. It seems to me irrational that while the FCO is working so hard and courageously, and receiving great commendation internationally for doing so, the Bill will effectively re-traumatise victims who have crossed borders to find safety in this country. It is also my understanding that the Home Office’s policy is to detain pregnant women only in exceptional circumstances. I therefore ask Ministers to give serious consideration to new clauses 1 and 3.