Immigrants held indefinitely due to ‘poor’ Home Office decisions

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Nov 30, 2017
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Eighty immigrants had been detained for over a year

Anthony Devlin/PA

Immigrants are being detained indefinitely in removal centres on the basis of “unacceptably poor” decisions by the Home Office, a survey has found.

Judges, lawyers and other specialists cite concerns over “target-obsessed” officials, with one judge claiming that “too many people are being banged up”.

They also condemn the lack of a 28-day limit on detention, contrary to standard practice elsewhere in Europe.

The criticisms come in a report from the Bar Council, published today, which notes that at the end of June, 56 per cent of people living in detention centres had been held for more than 28 days. There were 271 people who had been held for more than six months, and 80 had been detained for over a year.

The quality of Home Office bail summaries, which set out why bail is opposed, were universally lambasted. Judges berated officials for giving misleading information to tribunals and presenting them with “elliptical nonsense” when challenging bail applications.

One barrister, echoing the views of many others, said some tribunal presenting officers “are quite good, professional” while others are “incompetent and some seem to be on some sort of mission to imprison people.”

Officials from the Home Office were criticised for adhering rigidly to “stupid” codes, overlooking key details and for being reluctant to disclose important information at tribunal hearings. Insufficient training and supervision were also blamed for wasting time and taxpayer money.

There was also widespread concern that detainees lacked access to legal help, with one judge speaking of the “shocking” rise in unrepresented litigants in person.

The report, Injustices in Immigration Detention, was written by Anna Lindley of Soas University of London. Andrew Langdon, QC, chairman of the Bar of England and Wales, said that the report “paints a picture of officials acting with little accountability, unable or unwilling to pursue obvious and viable alternatives to detention.

“It shows that there is a growing sense of frustration with how the Home Office manages immigration detention. The Home Office is one of the great offices of state, but the quality of its decision-making is unacceptably poor.”

The Bar Council is calling for a 28-day time limit on administrative detention, automatic judicial oversight of the arrangements for holding people in administrative detention and adequate legal aid for advice and representation for those held in immigration detention to challenge the loss of their liberty.

Other proposals include ending the use of prisons for the purposes of administrative detention, the creation of special care measures for vulnerable people and victims of torture held in administrative detention, and a review and clarification of the criteria for administrative detention.

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