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October 15, 2020 10:09 PM
By suzanne

Lords Victory on Detention Amendments

Tell Your MP now to support Amendments

The Amendments

We were all terribly disappointed last June when, despite an impassioned debate,

the House of Commons rejected the amendments to the Immigration & Social

Security Bill put forward by David Davis which would have placed a time limit on

detention. Lib Dem Peers Sally Hamwee and Sarah Ludford picked up the fight when

the Bill went into the Lords and tabled a number of amendments regarding detention

including setting a time limit to detention. This stated that "individuals cannot be

detained longer than 28 days unless the Secretary of State is satisfied that there is a

change in circumstances and that the initial criteria for detention is met". Another

amendment set out those criteria as: "the person can be removed shortly, detention

is strictly necessary, and detention is in all circumstances proportionate". These

amendments can be seen here. https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/lbill/58-


Whilst they apply to f EEA and Swiss nationals in the UK after the Brexit transition

period it is expected that they will also be applied to asylum seekers.

Lords Victory

Sally and Sarah did a fantastic job of getting cross party support for these

amendments. When first putting forward the amendments Sally spoke very

passionately and was supported by a range of peers who made powerful speeches

referring to the humanitarian, medical and practical grounds that support the

amendment. You can see the speeches here. https://bit.ly/33pzmay.

It was, therefore, not a surprise that around midnight on 5 October the Lords voted

184 to 156 to accept the key amendment putting a time limit of 28 days on detention

with robust judicial oversight. The other detention amendments were seen as being

consequential to that amendment (House of Lords speak meaning that they would

be supported if the Time Limit amendment was). Despite the late hour Sally, and

others, made the case for reform very passionately. Roger Roberts said

"I ask the Government to take another look. Let it be a humanitarian look and let us

go on to be rather proud not of what we have done in hostility but of what we have

done in caring and hospitality."

You can read the debate here https://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2020-10-


Speaking to the Independent before the voting took place Sally said "Locking people

up for months on end without giving them any idea how long they'll be detained - is

clearly inhumane. They are not criminals, just human beings seeking sanctuary.

"That is why the Liberal Democrats are determined to amend the Conservative

government's legislation and limit the time an asylum seeker can be detained to a

maximum of 28 days."



Why This Matters

Having a time limit to immigration detention is necessary because currently people

can be detained indefinitely and, also re-detained again when, for instance, they

report to the Home Office. Many of these individuals will not have been convicted of

a crime in the UK - they are only seeking sanctuary. Unless individuals can get

lawyers involved there is no oversight by the judiciary - the rule of law is effectively

abandoned. In the year ending March 2020 26% (some 6000) of those leaving the

UK were detained for over 28 days; 475 had been detained for more than six

months. In the second quarter of 2020 (at the height of co-vid) there were 28

detainees who had been detained for 12-18 months.

Indefinite detention can have a major detrimental impact on individuals who are

already vulnerable. The uncertainty of not having a release date is very damaging to

the mental health of detainees as highlighted in recent research done by the British

Red Cross ("Never Truly Free; the humanitarian impact of the UK immigration

detention system" file:///C:/Users/User/Downloads/Never-Truly-Free-March-

2018%20(5).pdf). Many detainees say that they would have preferred to have had a

prison sentence as at least then they would then know when they would be released

and don't have to live with constant uncertainty that, even when released, they may

be detained again. People with underlying physical health conditions may not get the

treatment they need when in detention.

Some Tories have argued that unlimited detention is necessary to protect the

country against foreign national offenders who are waiting to be deported and "too

dangerous" to be released. It is correct that a number of people being detained are

foreign nationals who have been convicted of crimes and are then deported. But they have already served a custodial sentence the length of which is based on a risk

assessment, and, if a British citizen, could have been released on licence subject to

supervision measures. There is a whole series of arguments about why deportation

may not be the right action but it also needs to be recognised that some of the most

vulnerable people in detention are foreign nationals with serious mental illnesses

which may be linked to their offending history.

Write to Your MP Now

These amendments now go back to the House of Commons who have the final say

- probably in the week of 19 October. Please write to your MP (particularly if they

did not support these amendments last time) and ask them to do the right thing and

vote for them. You can find briefing material on https://www.detentionforum.org.uk