Immigration Detention is only used as a last resort; as an immediate precursor to removal from the country, or where there is a serious risk of absconding or to public safety.
97% of people currently in Immigration Detention are Foreign National Offenders who have committed serious crimes including murder, rape and child sexual abuse. Imposing a fixed and arbitrary time limit on Immigration Detention will make it much harder to remove these people. As of December 2019, the imposition of a 28 day limit to Immigration Detention would have resulted in the immediate release of (amongst others) the following foreign nationals awaiting deportation:
- 29 rapists,
- 52 violent offenders (including murderers),
- 27 child sex offenders,
- 43 other sex offenders.
95% of the people in the UK illegally and who are liable to deportation or removal (and who are therefore eligible for detention) are in fact managed in the community. Immigration Detention is used very sparingly. Of the tiny minority (5%) of the eligible cohort for whom Immigration Detention is used, the stay in Immigration Detention is generally very short.
- 39% are detained for less than 7 days
- 74% are detained for less than 29 days
- 96% are detained for less than 4 months
- 4% are detained for 4 months or more
For the very small number of cases (4% of 5% = 0.002% of the eligible cohort) detained for over 4 months, there is always a compelling reason, such as overwhelming public safety. Between December 2015 and December 2019, the number of people in Immigration Detention fell 51%. Anyone who thinks that their Immigration Detention is unfair can apply to a Judge for Immigration Bail, which is usually heard within a matter of a few days. Anyone wishing to leave Immigration Detention can also do so at any time by simply leaving the country, as they are legally obliged to do.
There have only been three confirmed Covid-19 cases in the Immigration Detention estate historically, and there are none currently.
In general, the whole asylum and removal system needs to work much faster and more cleanly. The legal process can often take a number of years, with repeated appeals and claims being made. The Government is considering reforms to make the system faster and fairer. This will ensure that genuine asylum claimants can get asylum faster, that decisions are made more quickly and definitely and that protracted delays and repeated applications to the courts can be eliminated. This will benefit society as a whole, as well as those experiencing the system. This should also see the very small numbers in lengthy Immigration Detention drop even further once these measures are legislated in due course.
Asylum and Humanitarian Protection
The UK has an extraordinarily generous record of offering asylum, protection and assistance. Last year we made around 20,000 grants of asylum and other forms of protection – one of the highest numbers in Europe. We also welcomed over 3,000 Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASCs) – more than any other country in Europe and 20% of the total EU intake. We are the only G7 country to spend 0.7% of GNI on foreign aid, spending around £14 billion per year. We are in the top three aid donors globally. Money spent in conflict zones goes much further than money spent in the UK. Those who claim asylum get:
- Free accommodation
- Council tax paid for
- Utilities paid for
- Free NHS care
- Free education for their children
- A cash allowance of £39.60 a week (which has just increased by 5% to around 10x the rate of general inflation)
Between 2015 and 2020 we accommodated around 20,000 migrants as part of the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme and around 2,000 people as part of the Vulnerable Children’s resettlement Scheme – people taken directly from conflict zones and resettled here. This was one of the most generous resettlement schemes in the world.
We have resettled 478 of the 480 children we undertook to bring here from safe EU countries as part of the Dubs amendments. This is despite the UK having the highest UASC intake of any European country.
New Clause of the EU Withdrawal Bill;
family reunion for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children
There has been an ongoing debate about the Government’s future policy on this. At the end of the transition period we will no longer be bound by the Dublin Regulation, however this Government is committed to the principle of family reunion and to supporting vulnerable children. We have presented a genuine and sincere offer to the EU on a future reciprocal arrangement for the reunion of unaccompanied children, where it is in the child’s best interests. We published legal text on 19 May as a constructive contribution to the negotiations. Getting a reciprocal arrangement between the EU and UK is in the best interests of the children because it will maximise the number of children reunited with their families.
To act unilaterally now, as the amendment seeks to do, would undermine the negotiation that is underway with the EU, making it less likely that we secure a reciprocal arrangement. We therefore ask that Parliament gives us time to play out negotiations. If agreement is not possible, we can come back to the UK’s unilateral position in due course.
During the transition period, the UK is continuing to reunite unaccompanied children with family members in the UK under the Dublin Regulation, and we are continuing to accept transfers in spite of Covid-19. On 11 May, we accepted the arrival of 50 children and other family members coming from Greece to unite with family here. Children in Europe with immediate family members who have been granted refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK will continue to be able to apply to join them under the refugee family reunion rules, Part 8 and Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules, which are routes unaffected by our exit from the EU.
The United Kingdom has a proud record in protecting and reuniting vulnerable children. In 2019, the UK received 3,651 asylum applications from unaccompanied children – a rise of 19% on the previous year and the highest intake of unaccompanied children since 2008. This means the UK received more asylum applications from unaccompanied children in 2019 than any country in the EU, and accounted for approximately 20% of all UASC claims made in the 27 EU Member States (excluding Spain whose figures have yet to be published).
We are pleased to see other countries now stepping up to support countries like Greece by taking in UASC. We stand ready to offer advice and guidance to Member States who wish to develop their own schemes.
There are over 5,000 unaccompanied children being cared for in the UK – a 146% increase since before the migration crisis in 2014, with a high concentration in a handful of local authorities. It is crucial we focus our immediate efforts on easing the increasing burden being placed on them. The suggestion the countries with the highest number of asylum claims should continue to accept more, appears to contradict the precise point that many campaigners who called for the original Dubs Amendment made at the time. Namely, more should be done to support those countries with the most UASC.
There is no doubt this has given rise to significant pressures in our domestic system, and we are doing what we can to ensure local authorities and those with frontline responsibility for safeguarding have the support they need. This includes working closely with the Department for Education and local government partners on potential improvements to the National Transfer Scheme, which facilitates the transfer of UASC between local authorities to achieve a more equitable distribution.
On 8 June 2020 we announced an increase to the additional funding contribution made by the Home Office to the costs incurred by local government in looking after UASC and former care leavers. Under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, the Government is now close to hitting its target of resettling 20,000 vulnerable refugees affected by the Syrian civil war, with 19,768 vulnerable refugees – many of whom are children – resettled since September 2015.
We have almost delivered on our commitments in section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016, with 478 children relocated to the UK (the final two arriving once Covid-19 restrictions in Italy have lifted).
I hope this provides reassurance on the Government’s track record and continued commitment to vulnerable children.