The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto last year called for an end to indefinite detention for immigration purposes, building on the end to child detention that Nick Clegg insisted upon as part of the coalition agreement. Today, a review of welfare in detention of vulnerable people conducted for the Home Office by Stephen Shaw has been published. In it he makes 64 recommendations, including that alternatives to detention be sought. Some of the changes he wants to see are so basic that you are shocked that they are not done already – the provision of even basic mental health treatment, for a start.
This one is quite chilling:
Recommendation 33: I recommend that the Home Office review detainees’ access to natural light and to the open air, and invite contractors to bring forward proposals to increase the time that detainees can spend outside.
And as for this one, you mean we don’t already?
Recommendation 35: I recommend that the service provider at Yarl’s Wood should only conduct searches of women and of women’s rooms in the presence of men in the most extreme and pressing circumstances, and that there should be monitoring and reporting of these cases.
The report also says that victims of sexual or gender based violence (including FGM), pregnant women, transgender people, those with learning difficulties or suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder should not be detained. You mean we don’t exclude them already?
Alistair could easily write 6 press releases a day for the next fortnight highlighting the appalling things we do to these vulnerable people but he chose today to concentrate on the very principle of indefinite detention itself. He said:
The findings of the Shaw review have highlighted welfare provisions for those being held in immigration detention fall well below what we must expect and I hope the Government will fully implement the recommendations made by Stephen Shaw.
None of this, however, touches on the real issue – a time limit on detention. The UK is one of only a few countries across the world which does not have a time limit of depriving people of their freedom. This can lead to enormous trauma and have a damaging impact on people’s mental health, not to mention the millions it costs the UK taxpayer to keep these people locked up.
For the first time we have cross party support for a time limit and I am disappointed that the Government has not taken the opportunity to radically shake up the system for the better.
His language was quite mild in the circumstances. There are times I feel really ashamed that I’m British and those times are usually when I read something about our immigration system.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings