I have received correspondence from several constituents who are concerned about immigration detention. I understand your concerns and I welcome the opportunity to provide further clarity on government policy in this area.
First, I would like to assure my constituents that in this country, there is a general presumption of liberty for all and if detention is used in immigration cases, as circumstances change, detention is reviewed and release may then be the appropriate response.
It might also interest you that at the end of March the High Court ruled that the Government's approach to detention and coronavirus was sensible and the appropriate precautionary measures were in place. I’m sure that you as the public rightly expect law and order to be maintained during the outbreak and it is important to remember that those currently in detention are foreign national offenders. The public expect the Government to keep us all safe, and so high-harm individuals must be detained. Despite this, Ministers provided assurances that the Home Office will only detain people where it is absolutely necessary on a case by case basis and decisions are kept under constant review.
The main rationale put forward in support of a time limit is that, in the absence of one, individuals are detained indefinitely. This is simply not the case. The law does not permit indefinite detention. The Government is committed to using immigration detention sparingly and only when necessary. In order for the detention of an individual to be lawful, there must be a realistic prospect of their removal within a reasonable timescale. The Government is held to account on this by the courts, and by a series of safeguards that ensure proper scrutiny of decisions to detain, and on-going detention.
A time limit is not only unnecessary, but it would also severely limit the Government’s ability to use detention as an effective means of maintaining lawful immigration control. Any time limit would encourage those who seek to frustrate the removal process to run down the clock until the time limit is reached and release is guaranteed, regardless of the proximity of removal and the facts of the case.
I am aware that some of you may still have concerns, but I do hope this information is helpful in outlining the Government’s approach with immigration detention.
Thank you to all those who took the time to write to me about this matter.