Immigration detention dehumanises not only the detainee but also every person who deals with it. It is a poison that infects us all. The professionals who deal with detainees and their families develop coping mechanisms. We convince ourselves that detention is necessary, that there is no alternative, that it is an inevitable part of the process, that the individuals affected deserve it, that they will get over it, that they are not like us and don’t feel family separation and deprivation of liberty in the same way that we would, that the kids are adaptable little things and won’t really notice. Most of all, we learn to dissociate. The effect of unknowably long immigration detention at the whim of unknown bureaucrats is simply too awful to contemplate for more than a short time.
Children are often the unrecognised victims of immigration detention. The detention of a parent has an absolutely devastating effect on the children concerned. Perhaps to protect themselves from thinking about the effect of their actions, Home Office decision makers and immigration judges hearing bail applications will routinely turn a blind eye to the impact of separation on the detainee and also the detainee’s children, even in the cases where such evidence is available.
A new report by Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) explodes the myth. BID reveal systematic disregard of child safeguarding duties by the now defunct UK Border Agency. The most powerful words in the report are those of the individuals affected by detention. This power is impossible to convey in a press release or even the executive summary. The best way to understand the impact of detention is to draw on some of the case studies, quotes and images in the report.
Case study: Beth and Daniel
Beth’s grandfather, who was caring for her and her disabled brother Daniel during their mother’s detention, became seriously ill and was admitted to hospital three times. Beth had to stop attending school to care for her brother and grandfather and missed her GCSE exams. She also had to deal with proceedings which were started to evict the family due to rent arrears.
Beth found it extremely difficult to look after her seven year old brother, was has very limited motor control and severe behavioural problems. During their mother, Christine’s, detention, he was made subject to a child protection plan, deemed to be at risk of emotional and physical harm and referred to Child and Adult Mental Health Services. A Children’s Services assessment found that:
‘Daniel has found it very difficult being separated from his mother, he is keen for her to return home and often states that she is “coming home today” when she is not and becomes upset when he realises this is not the case.
[A] concerned neighbour rang to report that Daniel was playing alone in the road at 8pm, he was seen to fall and lay in the road, which is a bus route… he walks into people’s houses and has poor awareness of danger and his own safety.’
Two months after his mother entered detention Children’s Services received a report that Daniel had been hit by a car.
Despite receiving reports about the welfare of these children, the Border Agency detained their mother for 160 days before she was released on bail by the Tribunal. She subsequently successfully appealed the Border Agency’s decision to deport her.
All that, and the mother was then released from detention on bail and won her appeal. This is all too common. Even where it is clear from the outset that the detention will be prolonged or that removal will ultimately be impossible, immigration detention is effectively used as a punishment that the Home Office thinks will magically deter future illegal immigration.
Some quotes from carers about the effect on the children:
‘Their dad told me that the eldest used to cry, regular at night before she go to bed, asking “when is mummy coming home?” There were a lot of questions that they were asking that I couldn’t answer. They would say “Oh so you don’t love us, why you staying away from us so long?”’
‘My daughter wakes up crying that she’s dreamt her daddy’s at home, and daddy takes her to school. And then she wakes up and daddy’s not there. I want to cry now just talking about it.’
‘She didn’t want to eat; you had to force her to eat. She just start crying “mummy, mummy”… you know, the constant crying. Whenever she hear the door open she would go to the door, knocking on the door saying “mummy.”’
‘At times she would sit by herself and break down and cry. When you asked her what is the matter, she say “when is my mum coming I want to go home with her.”’
And finally a quote from one of the parents themselves:
‘I never knew people could take your kids away out your life, just like that. They don’t know the pain that you feel in your stomach, you feel it in your guts. Being with my kids now is like I’m alive again.’
- Wednesday 17 April 2013, 6-8pm
- Grand Committee , House of Commons, London SW1A OAA
- Maggie Atkinson – children’s commissioner for England
- Lisa Mandy – shadow children’s minister
- A mother who was separated from her child by immigration detention
- Sarah Campbell – author of the report
Written by Frances Webber
Another case of unlawful detention demonstrates that UKBA officials intent on detention and removal sometimes don’t even read psychiatric reports suggesting detention might be damaging.
Read full post here
Written by Frances Webber| Institute of Race Relations
There are grounds for hope for improvement in detainees’ health treatment, but vigilance is still needed.
The NHS takeover of immigration detainees’ health care was perhaps the only positive news on 1 April, when the coalition’s ‘great benefits reform’ was inaugurated at the same time that most housing, debt, employment, social security and immigration advice and casework was removed from the scope of legal aid.
Read full post here
(IRIN) – In the violence immediately before and after Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in October 2011, thousands of sub-Saharan migrants were forced to flee. Since then, however, the authorities have detained in harsh conditions, and subsequently deported, hundreds more, according to former Chadian migrant workers.
This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=97617
(IRIN) – Australia is failing in its international obligations to protect the rights of close to 2,000 children now in immigration detention, say rights groups and legal experts.
This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=97591
The use of deportation ‘reserves’ continues a year after MPs demanded that the UK Border Agency should stop this ‘inhumane’ practice, Corporate Watch and Stop Deportation reveal in a joint investigation published in the Observer today.
Source: Free Movement
The Court of Appeal recently gave judgment in the case of R (on the application of Muqtaar) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 1270, a challenge by a Somali national to his detention under administrative immigration powers for the extraordinary period of 41 months, or three and a half years.
The first line of the judgment is striking:
This is yet another case concerning the lawfulness of immigration detention.
It is capable of being read as a lament that so much court time is being wasted with such trivial guff. As Nick Armstrong of Matrix Chambers commented, there would not be so many such cases if there was not so much unlawful detention going on.
The Claimant was convicted of a serious offence of robbery in 2001 but then afterwards committed offences of less gravity, leading to his description as a ‘chaotic recidivist’ by Richards LJ in the judgment. He was detained under immigration powers from 8 February 2008, his appeal rights were fairly rapidly exhausted on 8 July 2008 and his removal was belatedly scheduled for 17 June 2009. However, removal was cancelled the day before due to a Rule 39 indication from Strasbourg pending the outcome of a test case on Somalia. The Claimant was eventually released on bail on 13 July 2011, some two weeks after the Strasbourg case of Sufi and Elmi was handed down on 28 June 2011.
Sufi and Elmi took far longer to decide than had been hoped by all concerned, as described in R (AR) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 857.
On behalf of the Claimant it was argued that detention from the time of the Rule 39 indication was unlawful because from that time detention was in breach of Hardial Singh lawfulness principles. This submission was rejected:
At the time of receipt of the rule 39 indication there was a realistic prospect that the ECtHR proceedings concerning removal to Somalia would be resolved within a reasonable period: it was possible but was not apparent that they would drag on as in practice they did.
Thus the novel finesse on Hardial Singh of a ‘realistic prospect of reasonableness’ is introduced into the sorry cannon of case law upholding obscene lengths of administrative detention.
Richards LJ goes on to reject the proposition that for a removal to be reasonable there must be an identifiable timescale within which removal can take place.
There follows a classic piece of judicial hand wringing:
In any event, I can see no reason for differing from the overall conclusion reached by the deputy judge after careful consideration of all the relevant factors. The period of detention in question was very long – by the time of the ECtHR’s judgment in Sufi and Elmi it was approaching 41 months. Immigration detention of that length is a matter of great concern and it seems to me that the period was near the outer limit of what could be justified in the circumstances of this case. But I do not think that the deputy judge was wrong to conclude that the outer limit had not been exceeded.
Regular readers of unlawful detention cases will be aware that this outer limit is a mirage, forever fading away just before it is reached. Judges seem increasingly unwilling to say ‘enough is enough’, perhaps because of the volume of these claims and for fear of the precedent it would set. The effect is that periods of unlawful detention just get longer and longer and will continue to do so. The argument against having a statutory limit on detention has always been that the authorities would routinely detain up to that limit. The situation can hardly get worse than it is, though.
Returning to the judgment, on the question of whether the 15 days between Sufi and Elmi being handed down and the claimant being granted bail was lawful and reasonable, Richards LJ comes perilously close to holding that there is no need to review detention between monthly detention reviews. Thankfully, this is not a view endorsed in Elias LJ’s short dissenting judgment and even Lloyd LJ’s assenting judgment does not go so far. It is also noteworthy that the fact that the Secretary of State would plainly have continued to detain for a longer period given that release was only secured through a contested bail hearing was apparently irrelevant.
Richards LJ also rejected the arguably bold contention that the failure to make enquiries of Strasbourg to ascertain a potential end date to Sufi and Elmi amounted to a public law error and rejected the submission that detention was rendered unlawful by being justified with reference to the possibility of ‘self deportation’ to Somalia. Although the latter would amount to an error, it was not proven in the current case, it was merely that ‘some of the passages in the detention reviews are not very happily expressed’.
Lastly of note is the comment by Richards LJ at para 41 that ‘comparison with the particular outcome in other cases is unlikely to be a useful exercise in this highly fact-sensitive area’ and then at para 76, when seeking to distinguish a case, that anyway ‘the case itself is factually far removed from the present’. Some sort of award is surely due.
The judgment is a disaster for those opposed to the extreme lengths of administrative detention that routinely exceed criminal sentences for serious crimes. The ultimate deterrent in our society, the deprivation of liberty, is cheaper by the day.
- Five years of immigration detention ruled unlawful
- More unlawful detention cases
- Presumption to detain declared unlawful
DETAINEES are being held at an immigration removal centre for as long as two years with insufficient facilities and unsatisfactory mental healthcare, a report has found.
Conditions at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre (IRC), Gatwick Airport, have improved but a number of concerns remained.
Source: Crawley & Horley Observer
By Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Libya Researcher
“They [Libyans] don’t treat us like humans. For them, we are animals or slaves”, 23-year-old Nigerian woman detained in Khoms detention centre for “irregular migrants”.
Source: Amnesty International