Last night (15 March), the House of Lords voted in favour of an amendment to the Immigration Bill proposed by Lord Ramsbotham, Lord Rosser, Baroness Hamwee and Lord Roberts of Llandudno, that addressed the lack of judicial oversight on immigration detention in the UK.
The amendment (which can be read at paragraph 84 here) proposes that a person may not be detained for a period longer than 28 days; or for periods of longer than 28 days in aggregate. This period of detention may be extended by the First-tier Tribunal if the Home Office apply for an extension on the basis that “exceptional circumstances of the case require extended detention”.
Peers voted by 187 to 170 in favour of the amendment in the Immigration Bill debate, and during the debate, peers advocated both for increased judicial oversight of detention, as well as a time-limit on how long someone can be detained. Currently, the UK has no time-limit on detention: people can be detained indefinitely, for months and even years.
During the debate, Lord Brown (cross-bench) recognised the importance of:
the basic principle that administrative detention ought ordinarily to be subject to close scrutiny and control and not left as presently it is merely to bail applications and the courts’ general supervisory jurisdiction, with all the increasing problems that we know about of obtaining legal aid, and so forth, for such challenges.
The Detention Forum has long called for increased judicial oversight of detention, and the introduction of a maximum 28-day time-limit on how long someone can be detained.
Fred, speaking on behalf of the Freed Voices group, says:
“It’s a big step forward for the #Time4aTimeLimit campaign. But it is only a step and we should recognise it as that. Between us, the Freed Voices group have lost over 20 years to immigration detention but most of our group would not have benefited from this amendment if it were law. Indefinite detention was an abuse of our universal human rights. The time-limit needed to address this abuse has to be universal too – for everyone, and not just some.”
Mia Hasenson-Gross, the director of René Cassin: says:
“The vote in the Lords is the clearest indication yet that the policy of indefinite detention is becoming more and more indefensible. The successful amendment goes some way to achieving a fairer system and shows progress, but there is still work to be done to ensure that vulnerable people are not left out of the progress being made.
Eiri Ohtani, coordinator of the Detention Forum, says:
“Last night’s debate and vote in favour of the amendment indicates that there is now a strong political recognition that detention requires greater oversight and that such oversight requires a concrete legislative change. The Detention Forum is campaigning for increased judicial oversight, and a maximum 28 day time-limit for all those detained, which is not reflected in this particular amendment. We welcome this important step forward and thank the peers who have listened to our concerns and have spoken in favour of these crucial reforms. At the same time, we must recognise that there is still much work to be done on achieving the fundamental detention reform and protection of human rights that the parliamentary inquiry into detention, and the recent Shaw Review, have called for. We urge all the campaigners and supporters to continue to work towards a time-limit that leaves no one behind.”