It is important to say first that the 28-day time limit on immigration detention is not Liberty’s proposal. The Joint Committee on Human Rights proposed that back in 2006 or 2007. A joint inquiry by the all-party parliamentary groups on migration and on refugees, which I know some of you were involved with, also recommended a 28-day time limit on detention. Why do we think the Bill is the place to implement that time limit? Put very simply, the Bill will most likely make tens of thousands more people liable to deportation, because EEA nationals will come under the automatic deportation provisions in the UK Borders Act 2007.
We know that the Ministry of Justice, in response to a freedom of information request, said that it expects that up to 26,000 people per year could be liable to detention as EU nationals come under domestic immigration law. At the same time, a parliamentary question revealed that there has been no assessment of the impact of the Bill on the detention estate. Of course, we know what the impact of indefinite detention is on people. They tell us that it is traumatic. They tell us that the lack of a time limit in itself is traumatic, because they do not know when their detention will end.
Liberty is not alone in advocating for a time limit. The lack of a time limit has been criticised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Bar Council and the British Medical Association, and on Second Reading parliamentarians from across the House stood up in support of a 28-day time limit. Given that the Bill is very likely to make more people vulnerable to detention, now is absolutely the time to implement a time limit on detention for everybody and, indeed, to begin looking at taking deprivation of liberty out of the immigration system more broadly.