New research published today by Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) which analyses its successful bail cases (95% of cases granted bail since the lockdown began on 20 March) reveals a multitude of failings in the Home Office’s approach to detaining people for immigration purposes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
BID examined the reasons given by the Home Office to detain people and to oppose bail during the lockdown, and whether the Home Office’s claim to be primarily detaining “high-harm individuals” was borne out by the facts. BID investigated how the Home Office has approached issues of risk of harm, vulnerability, and imminence of removal when arguing that people should remain in immigration detention.
Key findings among BID’s sample of 42 cases:
- A “high risk of harm” was only claimed in 9 cases. In 27 cases, the Home Office relied only on an applicant’s previous offending for which they had served a sentence but presented no additional evidence to support its allegation that the individual presented a risk of harm.
- 32 applicants within the study had particular vulnerabilities, including 23 applicants who were accepted by the Home Office to be “adults at risk” in detention.
- Detention is to be used for the purpose of removal. But In only 7 cases did the Home Office refer to the current travel restrictions and the fact that these would have had an impact on its ability to remove a person.
- The Home Office often failed to show evidence that it had applied its statutory duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Submissions were made by BID concerning a biological child of the applicant in 15 of the cases. The Home Office responded to those submissions in only 5 of these cases.
- BID was able to determine the length of detention prior to the applicant’s bail hearing in 40 cases. In 8 cases, the applicant had been detained for 3-6 months (equivalent to a 6-12 month prison sentence). In 19 cases, the applicant had been detained in excess of six months. A total of 6 applicants had been detained in excess of 12 months, with the longest period of detention within this study exceeding 20 months (equivalent to 3 years and 4 months’ prison sentence).
On 29 April 2020 the Home Office wrote to the President of the First-tier Tribunal, expressing “surprise” at the level of grants of bail in recent weeks, in what was seen by many lawyers as an attempt to influence the independent judiciary. In his reply to the Home Office of 1 May the President reminded the Home Office that the courts decide bail applications in accordance with the law, and criticised the Home Office’s approach to bail applications.
Our findings in this research also indicate that the Home Office has demonstrated a number of failings in its approach to bail hearings during the pandemic. It should prioritise improving its own systems rather than expressing surprise that the tribunal is applying the law in bail hearings.
BID Director, Celia Clarke, said “This research lays bare a catalogue of failings in the Home Office’s approach to detention decision-making. Immigration detention is already an inhumane system where people can be locked up indefinitely without trial. Its use during COVID-19 places detainees, staff, and indeed the country, at risk. It is both cruel and unnecessary and must be ended as a matter of urgency.”
Note to editors
Since the beginning of the lockdown on 20 March 95% of BID’s bail hearings have been successful. This compares to a success rate of 59% in 2018-2019, and an overall success rate of about 30% for all bail applications made to the First-tier Tribunal.