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Immigration: Detention Centres

Volume 715: debated on Thursday 10 December 2009


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to end the practice of holding children in immigration detention centres. [HL128]

We would rather not detain families with children and would prefer that they left the UK voluntarily where the courts have upheld a decision of the UK Border Agency that they must leave the country. However, where they fail to leave after being given every opportunity and incentive to do so, the agency has no other option, other than to separate the family, but to detain in order to enforce their departure. Where detention is prolonged, it is normally because the family has made a last minute application to the court to frustrate the removal.

However, we are investigating approaches which would reduce the need to use detention to enforce removal for families with children. We promote the assisted voluntary return scheme with the International Organization for Migration throughout the asylum process to provide assisted voluntary returns which cater for families' needs and allow a return that is dignified and sustainable.

The agency is working in partnership with Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government to pilot an initiative in Glasgow to offer temporary housing and a package of support to a selection of families whom the UK Border Agency and the courts agree do not require international protection.

Unaccompanied children are, exceptionally, detained in very limited circumstances. These are primarily for their safety and only overnight while alternative arrangements with the local children's services are made for their care.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have for releasing Eritrean nationals held in immigration detention centres, in particular those who have claimed asylum. [HL402]

Detention is an essential component in maintaining an effective immigration control. It is usually appropriate in the following circumstances: initially, while a person's identity or basis of claim is being established; where there are reasonable grounds for believing that a person will fail to comply with the conditions attached to the grant of temporary admission or release; as part of a fast-track asylum process; or to effect removal.

The decision to detain, or to maintain detention, including those of Eritrean nationals, is made on a case by case basis taking account of the individual circumstances in each case. Imminence of removal and risk of harm to the public are among the factors considered in reaching a decision. There is no policy precluding the return of Eritrean nationals either to third countries or to Eritrea. Nor are there any plans to move away from a case by case approach to Eritreans who are held in immigration detention centres, whether or not they have claimed asylum.

Detention is kept to the minimum period necessary for the purpose for which it was authorised and is not unduly prolonged. Individuals may prolong their own detention by, for example, refusing to co-operate with the redocumentation process or by frustrating lawful attempts at removal.

Detention in each individual case is subject to review at increasingly senior levels within the UK Border Agency to ensure that it lasts only as long as it continues to be justified and necessary.

We believe that the current policies support a requirement to enforce our immigration laws and we therefore have no intention of changing them at this time.