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Immigration: Detention and Removal Centres

Volume 696: debated on Wednesday 5 December 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have to close the immigration detention centres, particularly those which have experienced fires and protests from detainees about their treatment. [HL97]

We have an ongoing improvement and replacement programme for immigration removal centres. No immediate closures are planned.

However, we announced in July that two of the four accommodation wings at Harmondsworth are being rebuilt. We are also building a new centre at Gatwick.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are taking account of the comments of a group of MEPs from the European Parliament Committee on Civil Rights, Justice and Home Affairs who visited three immigration detention and removal centres, on the detention of children, the mixing of criminals with asylum seekers, and the length of the detention of some individuals. [HL536]

We have noted the committee's comments following its visits to three immigration removal centres and await its official report with interest.

The detention of families with children is an emotive issue but it is a necessary measure in those circumstances where those concerned, who have no legal basis of stay in the UK, refuse to leave the country voluntarily.

The routine use of prison accommodation to hold immigration detainees ended in January 2002. Immigration detainees, including those who have been convicted for criminal offences, are therefore held in prison establishments only when they present specific risk factors that indicate they are unsuitable for immigration removal centres. Former foreign national prisoners are transferred to the immigration detention estate and allocated to a particular removal centre only following risk assessment.

Immigration Act powers of detention are not time-limited. However, domestic and ECHR case law provides that detention must last for no longer than is necessary for the purposes for which it was authorised and must not be of excessive duration. Our detention policies and procedures comply with that principle. Where detention is prolonged it is often as a consequence of attempts to frustrate the removal process.