More than 1,800 people spending Christmas in immigration detention centres

Opposition figures call on Boris Johnson’s government to introduce 28-day limit on length of time asylum seekers and others can be detained

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 24 December 2019 19:43
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More than 1,800 people in the UK are set to spend Christmas locked in immigration detention centres, according to government figures.

The finding prompted the Liberal Democrats to brand the government “cruel and callous” and call for a 28-day limit to be introduced on keeping people in detention centres.

According to the latest official statistics, there are currently 1,826 people being held in detention centres. Of these, almost two thirds (1,152) are people seeking asylum in the UK.

Last year, 1,784 people were in immigration detention centres at Christmas.

The vast majority (1,506) of the 1,800 people in detention are being held in Home Office immigration removal centres – while 300 are being detained in prison.

Twenty-seven people have been kept in detention for more than a year, and three people for more than two years. Almost one in 10 have been held for at least six months.

The government has come under fire over its treatment of asylum seekers and other immigrants at detention centres, particularly since the Windrush scandal.

Last year, women at one of the main detention centres, Yarl’s Wood in Bedfordshire, went on hunger strike in protest at the conditions.

Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that the government’s detention of many asylum seekers was unlawful, paving the way for a slew of new compensation claims against the Home Office that could run to millions of pounds.

Keeping people in immigration detention centres costs the taxpayer £89m a year, and last year the Home Office was forced to pay £8.2m in compensation for 312 cases of wrongful detention.

The overall number of people in immigration detention centres has decreased in recent years, and has more than halved since the end of 2014, when 3,439 people were being held.

The Liberal Democrats called for a 28-day limit to be imposed on the length of time people can be held in immigration detention centres.

Christine Jardine, the party’s home affairs spokesperson, said: “If we needed any reminder of the cruel and callous nature of the Conservatives, then this is it. Almost two thousand people will spend Christmas separated from their loved ones, as they remain indefinitely imprisoned in a detention centre.

“Locking vulnerable people up with no idea of when they will be released is yet another part of the Conservative government’s toxic and hostile approach to immigration. It is time the Tories gained some humanity and stopped wasting tax payers money on ensuring people spend their Christmas languishing in cells.

“The Liberal Democrats believe detention centres should only ever be a last resort. It’s time the Tories listened, introduced a 28-day limit on detention, and shut the majority of the UK’s detention centres.”

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