Mon, 11 Feb 2019
Alison Harvey of No5 Barristers’ Chambers has shared her expertise to advise the Joint Committee on Human Rights in its preparation of a report on immigration detention.
Her experience includes representing clients before the Home Office, tribunals and courts, in the UK and overseas, including working at the Refugee Legal Centre, Asylum Aid, and South West Law working with refugees, the internally displaced and the trafficked for the UN in West Africa and Azerbaijan, and with NGOs in Darfur. She has worked extensively on the development of immigration law and policy in the UK, advising those lobbying on, and challenging, a total of nine immigration Acts (to date) as well as on the development of the points-based system and the immigration aspects of Brexit.
Alison served the committee, which was tasked to prepare a report on immigration detention systems, as a special advisor.
The committee identified that some of those detained have a right to be in the country and that conditions in some detention centres are below acceptable standards. It found that the current immigration system is slow, unfair and expensive to run: last year it cost £108m. It concluded that the UK needs an immigration detention system which is fair, humane, decent and quick.
The committee report outlined five key proposals to overhaul and improve the current system.
It recommended that whether detentions are planned or unplanned, immigration detainees should not benefit from fewer safeguards than those applicable in the criminal justice system and that the decision on whether to continue detention should be made by a judge and should be made promptly. It highlighted that immigration detainees need sufficient time to get advice and gather evidence before such a hearing and that a period of 36 hours may be too short. Therefore, it recommended that a judicial decision should be required for any detention beyond 72 hours.
The report highlighted that the UK is the only country in Europe that does not impose time limits on immigration detention and recommended that detainees should not spend more than 28 days in detention. It advised that if a detainee seeks to delay the process the decision over further detention be made by a judge.
The third proposal from the committee relates to detainees’ rights to legal representation. It found there is an urgent need for immigration legislation to be reviewed. There is now such a complex web of law and regulation that it is impossible for all except the most expert people to understand. The committee recommended that the Law Commission should be tasked with simplifying and codifying the law on immigration.
Similarly, there are concerns about representation and protection for detainees at particular risk and how they are identified. The committee called for action to help prompt identification of such detainees.
Finally, the committee recommended more needs to be done to make the detention estate less prison-like and to create as open a regime as feasible.