The following letter was published by the Guardian on Sunday, September 11:
More than 30,000 people are held under immigration powers in the UK each year without time limit. Indefinite detention is damaging to mental health, and Home Office policy stipulates that vulnerable people should not be detained. However, many are, and in the last few years there have been five court findings of “inhuman and degrading” treatment of detainees.
In response to mounting criticism, the government commissioned Steven Shaw to carry out a review of the welfare of vulnerable detainees. This found that protections for vulnerable people were inadequate and made 69 recommendations that were broadly accepted by the government. Ministers promised “significant and transformative” change, but have now proposed a new“adults at risk” policy, which comes into effect on 12 September.
Leading organisations have voiced concerns that the new policy may lead to a worsening of protection for vulnerable people in detention. The policy limits the definition of torture, meaning that those tortured at the hands of Isis, Boko Haram and others may no longer be included. The policy increases the burden of evidence on vulnerable people and balances vulnerability against a wider range of other factors. We fear this will lead to more vulnerable people being detained for longer.
The guidance was laid before parliament the day before summer recess and will come into effect one week after recess, meaning there has been no opportunity for meaningful debate. Considering the potential for significant harm to vulnerable detainees, we call for an urgent review before this policy is implemented.
Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association
Helen Bamber Foundation
UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group