James O'Brien 10am - 1pm
Less than half of UK immigration detention centres detainees were deported last year
30 October 2019, 00:25
A report has found that less than half of people detained in UK immigration centres last year were deported afterwards.
Of the 25,487 people who left UK detention centres in 2018, only 44 per cent were returned from the UK to another country.
A report from the Independent Monitoring Boards (IMBs) said 40 per cent of people detained were granted bail by the Home Office, with other cases being handled by an immigration judge.
At Yarl's Wood in Bedford, 63% of the women detained were released rather than removed, the report found.
The report also said too many "vulnerable people" were detained during the year.
It stated that many people with pre-existing mental health problems were detained, and that their condition "sharply deteriorated" in detention, adding: "The indefinite nature of detention also caused great distress."
Across just three centres, 25 people were sectioned under the Mental Health Act last year.
Concerns were also raised over excessive use of restraints.
The report said: "At one point, over 90% of detainees from one centre were handcuffed for external appointments; after the IMB raised concerns, this significantly reduced.
"The use of waist restraint belts (belts with handcuffs attached) on removal charter flights has also reduced following IMB concerns, but the report still found examples of inappropriate use and a lack of continuous risk assessment or oversight."
The report also found that some people spent years being held in detention centres.
At the centre in Heathrow, four men were released on bail in 2018 after one had been held for four-and-a-half years while the other three were held for over two years each.
Another detention centre, Tinsley House by Gatwick Airport, detained a man for 11 months "despite being recognised as higher risk after a doctor had raised concerns under Home Office procedures that he could be a victim of torture. He self-harmed and was under constant supervision multiple times".
The report backed the findings of two parliamentary committees in urging a detention time limit to be brought in and indefinite detention to be scrapped.
James Wilson, acting director of Detention Action, welcomed the news and said politicians were "clamouring" for a 28-day time limit to be brought in, adding: "With the IMBs now joining, we hope the Government finally sees sense and implements this most basic of safeguards."
However, the report also said the number of people in detention decreased after the Windrush scandal and there were fewer examples of people being held for excessive periods as conditions were seen to improve.
Rudy Schulkind, research and policy co-ordinator at the organisation Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID), accused the Home Office of "frequently" failing to provide "adequate reasons" for its decisions to detain someone, adding that it should only be used "as a last resort to effect enforced removal from the UK".
He said: "The impression given by these figures is that detention fails to achieve its stated aim in the majority of cases and is frequently used to coerce people into leaving the UK when the Home Office is in fact not in a position to enforce their removal.
"This is nothing more than pointless cruelty inflicted upon individuals who find themselves in detention when they have not committed any crime or even had their detention authorised by a court of law."
A Home Office spokeswoman said: "Detention is an important part of the immigration system, but it must be fair, dignified and protect the most vulnerable.
"We have made significant improvements to our approach in recent years, but remain committed to going further.
"We continue to explore alternatives to detention, increase transparency around immigration detention, further improve the support available for vulnerable detainees and initiate a new drive on detainee dignity."