Immigration Bill and Detention April 2016

Thank you for writing to me regarding immigration detention and the Immigration Bill.

I appreciate that immigration detention can cause real distress and anxiety, particularly among vulnerable groups, and I believe detention should always be used as a measure of last resort in our immigration and asylum system.

I know that a number of campaign groups have raised concerns about the way our immigration detention system is currently operating, and many of these were echoed in a report by the All Party Parliamentary Groups on Refugees and Migration in March 2015. The debate around this report in the House of Commons in September 2015 demonstrated a powerful case for reform of the current system, in particular that there should be a greater emphasis on alternatives to detention. Indeed, there is growing evidence from other countries around the world about the effectiveness of alternatives such as stronger community-based approaches.

The Government also published Stephen Shaw's Review into the Welfare in Detention of Vulnerable Persons in January 2016 which made no fewer than 64 recommendations. I welcome this important report, but it is clear from its findings that the rules meant to protect vulnerable people in particular are not working.

As you say in your letter, the House of Lords, through Opposition support, passed an amendment to the Government's Immigration Bill on 15 March 2016 to introduce a 28 day limit on immigration detention unless otherwise determined by a court. It is vital that our immigration system is fair and effective and I agree that the indefinite detention of people in the asylum and immigration system should never be allowed.

I previously voted against the Immigration Bill in its entirety at its Third Reading in the House of Commons on 1 December 2015 as I believed that it could lead to a number of unintended and pernicious consequences, and that it fell short of providing the comprehensive and coherent strategy we need to bring greater controls and fairness to our immigration system.

I am also hugely disappointed by the outcome of yesterday’s (25th April) voting in the House of Commons in which an amendment, tabled by Lord Dubs (Lab), which would require the government to relocate and support 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children from Europe, was defeated. It is absolutely shameful that children who are in some case only 10 years old are left without any support. They have experienced awful events when they left their homes being destroyed by ongoing conflicts and are now being left to their destiny of our doorstep. This shows that the Tory Party has no compassion with those children and I hope that the new amendment, Lord Dub has now tabled, will eventually get through and secure some hope for those children.

I can assure you that I will follow this issue closely. Thank you once again for writing to me and for sharing your views.