Time limit on detention for EEA and Swiss nationals

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:45 am on 5th March 2019.

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Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union) 9:45 am, 5th March 2019

My hon. Friend makes a powerful point, and I will make sure to see the film.

The point was driven home by a detainee who said to us:

“The uncertainty is hard to bear. Your life is in limbo. No one tells you anything about how long you will stay or if you are going to get deported.”

Medical experts told us that that sense of being in limbo—of hopelessness and despair—leads to deteriorating mental health. One expert from the Helen Bamber Foundation told us that those who are detained for more than 30 days, which is relevant to the limit we are looking for, had significantly higher levels of mental health problems.

New clause 1 would have an impact beyond those who are detained. A team leader from the prisons inspectorate told us that the lack of time limit encourages poor caseworking in the Home Office. He said that a quarter of the cases of prolonged detention it had considered were a result of inefficient caseworking.

Prolonged detention does not happen because it is inappropriate for people to be released. Despite these places being called immigration removal centres, we have found—everybody needs to focus on this fact—that most people are released from detention for reasons other than being removed from the UK. They are released back into the community.

The system is not only bad for those who are involved, but expensive, as my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton pointed out. The recommendation in new clause 1 for a maximum time limit to be set in statute is about not simply righting the wrong of indefinite detention, but changing the culture that is endemic in the system.