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 10:00 am on 5th March 2019.

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Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes The Minister for Immigration 10:00 am, 5th March 2019

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has made the point that there is not yet any agreement on reasonable time limits, given that, with both 90 days and 42 days—in this new clause we are discussing 28 days—there is a wide range of opinion on what a reasonable time limit might look like.

I wish to address—as I am sure the Chairman wants me to—the individual elements of the new clauses. First, and this has already been referenced, they would apply only to EEA and Swiss nationals. The effect of these new clauses would be to introduce a system that imposed time limits on the detention of individuals of certain nationalities but not on others. As I have said in relation to other amendments and clauses limited to EEA nationals, this would clearly be discriminatory on nationality grounds, going against Parliament’s proud history of promoting laws that protect human rights and protect individuals from discrimination. I cannot see any justification for Parliament to depart from those principles in the way proposed.

While new clause 1 would introduce a 28-day longstop time limit for exceptional cases, new clause 3 would provide for a 96-hour time limit. Both would have a major impact on our ability to remove and on the processes on which removal action is dependent. For example, in 2018, there were more than 8,500 removals directly from detention. More than 2,700 individuals were removed from the UK, having been detained for 29 days or more. We believe that introducing a 28-day longstop time limit would encourage people to change behaviours, so as to run down the clock to secure release. As it stands, a presumption of release after 96 hours, other than in the most restrictive of circumstances, would make it extremely difficult to remove any individuals from the UK.