Many constituents have contacted me about immigration detention and the proposed amendment to the Immigration Bill you raised. With the Brook House Immigration Removal Centre in Gatwick being located not far from our constituency, I can fully understand why this is an important matter to you. I do want to provide you with the latest information I have on this and my reasons for voting as I did on the amendment.
I am keen to assure you there is a general presumption of liberty for all and if detention is used as circumstances change, detention is reviewed and release may then be the appropriate response. The main rationale put forward in support of a time limit is that individuals can be detained indefinitely. My colleagues in the Home Office have assured me, this is simply not the case. The law does not permit indefinite detention.
My colleagues in the Government are committed to using immigration detention sparingly and only when necessary. In order for the detention of an individual to be lawful, there must be a realistic prospect of their removal within a reasonable timescale. The Home Office are held to account on this by the courts and by a series of safeguards that ensure proper scrutiny of decisions to detain, and on-going detention.
A time limit is not only unnecessary, but it would also perhaps significantly limit the Government’s ability to use detention as an effective means of maintaining lawful immigration control. Any time limit would encourage those who seek to frustrate the removal process to run down the clock until the time limit is reached and release is guaranteed, regardless of the proximity of removal and the facts of the case. 95% of individuals with no leave to remain in the UK are managed within the community rather than detained. Most people detained under immigration powers spend only short periods in detention.
I sincerely believe it is only right every case is considered individually and kept under constant review. Recent figures show, as of the week commencing 23 March, there were 736 people in detention and I can confirm the vast majority of those are foreign national offenders. Clearly, constituents across Mid-Sussex will expect the Government to keep the public safe and maintain the lawful detention of high-harm individuals.
The immigration removal estate is currently almost 40% smaller than it was five years ago, and importantly of significantly higher quality. We are therefore detaining fewer people; have closed IRCs that were no longer fit for purpose; and have reduced occupancy levels in the other IRCs to ensure better staffing ratios.
I hope we can agree lawful immigration detention is sometimes necessary to keep the public safe and I will work to hold the Government to account on this issue for you and ensure the system remains understood, fair and importantly humane.