Britain’s cruel immigration detention policy is rightly being attacked from all sides

Editorial: If Mr Johnson is to be consistent, he needs also to bring his more enlightened approach to the detention centres

Wednesday 31 July 2019 21:40
Smoke billows from the Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre near Bedford – detainees set fire to it in 2002
Smoke billows from the Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre near Bedford – detainees set fire to it in 2002

It is strange that the UK should be the only nation in the European Union without a time limit on the detention of immigrants in the various centres operated by the Home Office and its contractors. So strange, and indeed unacceptable, that it has attracted the opposition of normally loyal Conservative MPs, who are voicing their concerns about the continuation of such a cruel system.

The UK’s immigration detention centres, and the private sector outsourcing firms that run them, have come under repeated attack by everyone from the UN down. Disturbances, fires and near riots at places such as Yarl’s Wood suggest that, far from the public gaze, something is very wrong with them – and indefinite detention must be one of the most potent factors in their instability.

Last week, the minister responsible for migrant detention, Caroline Nokes, wrote to the House of Commons Joint Committee on Human Rights in these bureaucratic terms: “Any time limit would require a significant and costly reengineering of a wide range of cross-government and judicial systems to mitigate these consequences. Even countries that do apply a time limit to immigration detention do not operate such a short one.”

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