Marking the government’s homework: Stephen Shaw meets the APPG on Refugees

October 26, 2018

Mishka from Freed Voices reflects on a meeting between the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees and Stephen Shaw, author of two major reports into the state of immigration detention in the UK.

Last week Thangam Debbonaire MP, chair of the APPG on Refugees, organised an interesting meeting for those of us working to reform the UK’s broken system of immigration detention. She invited Stephen Shaw to discuss his recent report assessing progress in implementing his 2016 findings on the welfare of vulnerable people in immigration detention. “Marking the government’s homework”, as he put it.

It was great to see a number of MPs attending the event, and many familiar faces representing NGOs and charities that are working determinedly for immigration detention reform.

Thangam Debboaire MP, Paul Blomfield MP and Stuart McDonald MP asked Shaw important questions about the government’s progress in implementing the recommendations from his first report, and also about the present climate of the UK’s immigration detention estate.

From what I gathered, Shaw’s view is that the Home Office now seems to have a commitment for ‘cultural change’. He said that the chances of significant immigration detention reform are much higher than they were just a few years ago. He also indicated that now is a good time to include a detention reform clause or amendment, e.g. a time limit on detention, into the upcoming immigration bill. The persistence of the #Time4aTimeLimit campaign has successfully put this on the agenda.

Shaw also discussed the government’s internal review into detention time limits and the alternatives to detention pilot that the Home Secretary announced on 24th July. He reiterated that his remit did not include consideration of a time limit, but did advise against the exclusion of foreign national ex-offenders from any possible time limit. This is the case in some countries but would be unproductive, Shaw said, as most of the immigration detainees spending the longest time in immigration detention have previous convictions.

Shaw’s other advice was to make sure that time limit calls are practical and consider the benefits and potential complications. I think that our 28 day time limit call is backed by evidence and is a practical policy proposal. I also think we are on the correct track with our 28 day time limit call.

Shaw outlined the ineffectiveness of the Adults at Risk policy, the enormous cost of running the UK’s detention estate, and the astonishing fact that 55% of people detained are eventually released back into the UK, their detention having served no purpose. He also touched on the growing issue of people being released from detention into destitution, stating that “some people, once released from detention, stand in front of the main gates of detention centres, and wonder whether they should turn right or left, as they do not have any place to go”.

It was also important that two experts-by-experience were able to share their views directly with Stephen Shaw. Direct experience of the unnecessary harm caused by indefinite detention always serves as a reminder of why the introduction of a 28-day time limit is so urgent.

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