Two announcements from the Home Office, days before Caroline Nokes’ departure 

Statement: Immigration Detention Reform

On 23 July 2019, the outgoing Immigration Minister, Caroline Nokes, issued a statement entitled “Immigration Detention Reform”, announcing that there has been a 40% reduction in the size of the detention estate since 2015.

She noted a number of measures implemented as part of the ongoing detention reform programme, which began following the second Shaw Review, including:

  • Promotion of voluntary return programme;
  • Community-based alternatives to detention pilots;
  • Reducing the number of beds in detention centres;
  • Introducing Skype in detention centres;
  • Increased number of staff members in detention centres;
  • Piloted automatic bail referral of detainees to the First-Tier Tribunal of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber after 2 months in detention (ended on 4 August).

She added “I am committed to going further and faster in reforming immigration detention.”

We hope this reform programme will continue under the new Immigration Minister.

Response to the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ detention inquiry report

Caroline Nokes also finally responded to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, who published their detention inquiry report back in February this year.

Its top recommendation was for a 28 day time limit on immigration detention to be introduced, which encouraged many MPs to support a set of amendments during the passage of the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill.

Despite this huge cross-party support for change, unsurprisingly, the Home Office rejected this recommendation.

The Home Office’s 15-page response addresses each of 17 recommendations made by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and makes for interesting reading, revealing a range of reforms that the Home Office has been working on for some time.

Immediate political reaction was that, given this refusal, the only way to introduce a time limit is through the bill process. It prompted Harriet Harman, the Committee Chair, to comment that “Parliament will have the opportunity to consider changing the law to protect people from arbitrary detention when the Immigration Bill is brought back.”

This will certainly give parliamentarians more reasons to push for a legislative change to introduce a 28 day time limit.