The fact that the Home Office makes promises they don’t keep is not really news to me.
They said my asylum case would be considered in six weeks when I first lodged it. Then three months. Then six months. I’ve been waiting over three years.
When I was put in inappropriate asylum accommodation and complained, the Home Office said it would be only temporary. It has been five years now.
I was reporting to the Home Office once a week. They said that if I did not breach my bail conditions it would go down to twice a year. I just came from signing to write this piece and I can tell you it was the second time this month.
But I have to admit I was actually a bit surprised to see the latest immigration statistics. Nothing has changed at all since the government promised to reform detention after the first Shaw Review. Then, they said they would reduce the number of people detained and the length of time they were held for. But detention centres are still full. The length of time people are held there is still indefinite. More than half of those detained are still released back into the community. In the period since the Government’s promises, several people have died in detention.
It looks like business as usual for the Home Office: detain first, think later.
Anyone with experience of detention knows that when the Home Office are left to themselves they will misbehave with impunity. But at the same time, I think we all kind of hoped that the Shaw Review would be the beginning of some kind of accountability.
I think Shaw will be personally disappointed with these statistics. If you read his report, you could tell he believed the current system did not work and wanted big changes. But I think his one big mistake was that he did not push for a time-limit. It is a clear and simple demand that would have done exactly what he called for: reduce the number of people in detention and the length of time they were held. Instead, we have just had a series of touching-up jobs that have changed nothing. They have painted over the damp without tackling the rot and have just hoped that no-one would notice. But the stats don’t lie.
The second Shaw Review starts in a week time. If Shaw looks at these figures I hope he comes to the logical conclusion that an end to indefinite detention is necessary and the first step towards serious change. The latest figures show that one in three people were held for over 28 days. I was detained for three years and I can tell Mr. Shaw that he needs to be strong with the Government, he needs to be bold. He needs to push for a time-limit on detention.