Arbitrary and indefinite detention

This number includes 170 in criminal prisons but does not include those held in police cells and short-term holding centres. 

None had been charged with a criminal offence nor detained by order of any independent judicial process. 

Detention and the “removal” process is characterised by inadequate access to appropriate health care and legal representation, high levels of assaults and other forms of abuse, as well as self-harm and suicide.

 Photo left : Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre, Bedford.

Amnesty International reported in June 2005 that immigration detention in the UK “is in many cases protracted, inappropriate, disproportionate and unlawful, and the organisation called on the Government to justify the lawfulness of detention in each and every case.  … Seeking asylum is not a crime, it is a right. Thousands of people who have done nothing wrong are being locked up in the UK. We found that in many cases there was no apparent reason to detain people”.

The Inspector of Prisons (HMIP) reported that the “lack of supervision can result in arbitrary or sloppy decision-making … in one case to detainees literally lost in the system, three months into what was supposed to be an overnight stay in prison”.  Another HMIP report noted that “the recent cuts in immigration & asylum legal aid are leaving many detained without representation, and that people are languishing in unsafe detention centres because of the inefficiencies and chaos of the Home Office”.

A previous HMIP report found that even Immigration Officers themselves thought there was “little or no consistency or logic” in who gets detained.  There are reports of asylum seekers arriving in the UK and given Temporary Admission with instructions to report back in 48 hrs.  On reporting back the person may then be detained on the basis of being a potential absconder, even though they have just demonstrated otherwise, possibly because a space in a Removal Centre has become available. 

The British Government set seemingly arbitrary targets on deportations

In many cases detainees languishing in detention centres for months or even years, yet other cases deportation is very quick – some asylum seekers are arrested and detained on arrival in the UK and refused asylum through the Fast Track process within a matter of days, not allowing time to recover, in some cases from torture, or to gather evidence.   

The British Government set seemingly arbitrary targets on deportations, announcing a Public Performance target called “Tipping the Balance”, whereby the number of removals must exceed the number of new “unfounded” asylum claims. 

Many of these cases deemed “unfounded” have resulted from the 99% refusal rate of the “Fast Track” asylum determination process carried out at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre, where 6 asylum seekers have died since 1989.

Whilst publicly "condemning" the perpetrators of genocide and human right abuses, the British Government is quietly deporting the Victims of War right back into the world's worst disaster zones and the hands of the world's most brutal regimes.  Asylum seekers refused through “Fast Track” are from countries such as DR Congo, Iran and Myanmar.

Many feel the “Fast Track” process is a cynical and blatant measure by the Home Office to get rid of as many asylum seekers as possible.

Asylum / detention statistics - Q2 07

Number of families in detention - July 2007