Home Office has utterly failed in immigration detention, MPs find | UK news

The Home Office approach to immigration detention is careless and cavalier and has led to people being wrongfully detained, an influential parliamentary committee has concluded.

The home affairs select committee said in a scathing report that the department had overseen serious failings in almost every area of the immigration detention process.

The report finds the Home Office has “utterly failed” in its responsibility to oversee the safe and humane detention of people in the UK.

The department does not follow its own policy and guidance, and a series of safeguarding and case-working failures have led to people being wrongfully detained, held in immigration when they are vulnerable and unnecessarily detained for too long, the MPs say.

They call for an end to indefinite detention and a maximum 28-day time limit and say the Home Office must do much more to ensure that detention is a last resort.

Yvette Cooper, the committee’s chair, said: “This inquiry has found serious problems in every part of the immigration detention system.

“Irresponsible failures by the Home Office have led to vulnerable people being wrongly detained, people being held in detention far too long, and serious failings in the operation of individual immigration removal centres. Reform is needed urgently to ensure the immigration detention system is fair, works sensibly, is transparent and humane.”

She said the approach to immigration was “careless and cavalier – including casework failures, insufficient judicial safeguards, and a general lack of humanity in the system”.

Cooper added: “Making the wrong decision on detention can have a devastating impact on people’s lives – as we saw from the Windrush scandal, but also from many other cases we have seen. The lack of any time limit and of proper judicial safeguards has allowed the Home Office to drift and delay, leaving people stuck in detention for months who really shouldn’t be there at all.”

The inquiry found that Home Office policies that should prevent unlawful detention and harm of vulnerable people are regularly applied in such a way that the most vulnerable detainees, including victims of torture, are not being afforded the necessary protection.

At the end of December, there were 1,784 people held in the detention estate, a fall of 30% compared with the same date 12 months earlier and the lowest level since comparable records began in 2009. In 2018, 24,748 people entered the detention estate.

Earlier this week, the Home Office was forced to apologise for shortcomings that led to the killing of a “gentle and polite” man in immigration detention at an inquest into his death.

West London coroner’s court is exploring the role of the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice, health professionals and detention centre subcontractors in the death of Tarek Chowdhury, from Bangladesh. The 64-year-old was killed by Zana Assad Yusif, 33, from Iraq, at Colnbrook immigration removal centre near Heathrow in December 2016.

Yusif, who was well known to mental health services and had 16 previous convictions for 33 different offences, beat Chowdhury to death just two days after the latter arrived in Colnbrook.

A Home Office spokesman said: “Detention is an important part of our immigration system – but it must be fair, humane and used only when absolutely necessary.

“We do not detain people indefinitely, and the law does not allow it – most people detained under immigration powers spend only short periods in detention … we are committed to going further and faster with reforms to immigration detention and a comprehensive cross-government programme of work is in hand to deliver on that commitment.”

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