Over the past couple of decades, the UK’s immigration detention system – one of the largest in Europe and across the world – has come under increased scrutiny. Immigration detention in the UK has been the subject of official investigations and private lawsuits, not to mention public protest and outrage.
Official Home Office commissioned reports ave called for UK immigration detention centres to radically cut down on the detention of certain groups of non-EEA citizens. While the new Immigration Act of 2016 addresses some of these concerns, the general consensus and popular opinion is that it still leaves much to be desired.
In one of Europe’s busiest and most active immigration detention systems, around 30,000 people each year are held in detention at the UK’s visas and immigration detention centres. This includes children and families, asylum seekers who would be at huge risk to return to their home country, vulnerable adults, and people with mental and physical difficulties. The UK’s immigration detention and removal centres are privatised, leading many to question the culpability and accountability of these centres.
The problem largely consists of two distinct issues – the conditions of the centres themselves, and the vulnerability of the people being held there. In the UK, bail for immigration detainees can be a notoriously complicated and difficult process, leading many to need professional and expert help from qualified immigration lawyers. The fact that so many find themselves in desperate need of expert legal aid to prove that it’s not appropriate for them to be held in immigration detention has led many to question the current parametres in place for deciding whether an immigrant should be held in a detention centre.
The conditions in UK immigration detention and removal centres have come under great criticism over the past decade. The high profile case of a young woman from New Guinea’s experience in Yarl’s Wood removal centre brought the issue into the public eye. As well as this, Brook House immigration removal centre near Gatwick, London, has also come under scrutiny. The issue of mental health issues affecting detainees has been a huge point of contention, with many cases of attempted self-harm becoming known to the public.
Here at the Immigration Advice Service, our expert, OISC-qualified lawyers have years of experience helping deliver our immigration detainee bail package for immigrants who are eligible for bail but don’t have the legal expertise necessary to secure it themselves while in detention.
The current system is a burden on taxpayers, with the Home Office reportedly spending £108 million on immigration detention in 2017-18. As a result, in 2019 there was a push for there to be a hard time-limit on immigration detention durations, with claims that a 28-day time limit could save even as much as £35 million in costs.
Recent reports have suggested that hundreds of people are detained indefinitely in UK immigration detention centres, with the UK’s detention policies lagging far behind those of other European countries – all EU countries impose a time-limit of some kind of the duration that immigrants can be held in detention.
While detainees are automatically referred for bail after spending three months in detention, the success rates remain low and many struggle to achieve bail without legal help. As the UK leaves the EU and moves towards changed immigration policies, it remains to be seen whether the current immigration detention crisis will improve.