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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 April 2019

UK MPs tell government to limit detention for migrants

Government paid out £21m in five years to people who were wrongfully detained

The decision was taken in 2013 under Theresa May's stewardship of the Home Office to make the UK a 'hostile environment' for illegal immigrants. AP
The decision was taken in 2013 under Theresa May's stewardship of the Home Office to make the UK a 'hostile environment' for illegal immigrants. AP

The British government should lose its powers to detain immigrants indefinitely following a series of high-profile blunders, British politicians said on Thursday.

Britain is the only country in Europe that does not impose time limits for detention on immigration matters and lawmakers said on Thursday that they should be held no longer than 28 days.

The government has been dogged by a series of scandals after introducing a “hostile environment” policy for illegal immigrants. It was forced to apologise last year after detaining and deporting the descendants of a post-war generation of immigrants after wrongly telling them they had no right to be in the UK.

The MPs said that poor practices in the past had meant that the UK was forced to pay out £21m in five years to people who had been wrongly detained on immigration matters.

“The first that person will know about it is when someone bangs on their door in the early hours of the morning to bundle them into an immigration enforcement van and take them to a detention centre,” said the chairwoman of the committee, Harriet Harman.

The UK government has wide powers to detain people for immigration matters including while they wait for permission to enter the UK or before they are deported. Some 25,000 people were held in the 12 months to September in a “prison-like” system of detention centres that cost £108m.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “Immigration detention is an important part of the wider immigration system, but we are committed to using detention sparingly and only when necessary. We do not detain people indefinitely, and the law does not allow it.”

The report came the day after 15 protesters who blocked the take-off of a deportation flight from Stansted Airport, east of London, to Africa were told that they would not go to prison.

The so-called Stansted 15 cut through the airport’s perimeter fence and locked themselves together around a jet chartered by the UK Home Office.

They were convicted after a two-month trial but the judge told them none would go to prison after he accepted their intentions were to demonstrate rather than put the airport and its users in danger.

Updated: February 7, 2019 06:19 PM

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