Thank you for contacting me about future immigration policy.
The Government is building a fairer, single, global immigration system which considers people based on their skills, rather than nationality. Illegal immigration should be deterred and prevented and I believe my constituents across Calder Valley would expect nothing less.
I understand that the Immigration Rules already provide a route for undocumented migrants to regularise their immigration status. I welcome the fact that these rules are kept under constant review.
Regarding immigration detention, recent figures show that as of the week commencing 23 March, there were 736 people in detention and I can confirm that the vast majority of those are foreign national offenders. The Government has a duty to keep the public safe and maintain the lawful detention of high-harm individuals. Lawful immigration detention is necessary to keep the public safe.
95 per cent of individuals with no leave to remain in the UK are managed within the community rather than detained.
Most people detained under immigration powers spend only short periods in detention.
In the year ending December 2019, 74 per cent of individuals left detention within 28 days and, of these, 39 per cent were detained for 7 days or less. There were also fewer than half the number of individuals detained than in September 2017.
The immigration removal estate is currently almost 40 per cent smaller than it was five years ago and of significantly higher quality. We are detaining fewer people; have closed IRCs that were no longer fit for purpose; and have reduced occupancy levels in the other IRCs to ensure better staffing ratios.
The main rationale put forward in support of a time limit is that, in the absence of one, individuals are detained indefinitely. This is simply not the case. The law does not permit indefinite detention.
The Government is committed to using immigration detention sparingly and only when necessary. In order for the detention of an individual to be lawful, there must be a realistic prospect of their removal within a reasonable timescale. We are held to account on this by the courts, and by a series of safeguards that ensure proper scrutiny of decisions to detain, and on-going detention.
A time limit is not only unnecessary, but it would also severely limit the Government’s ability to use detention as an effective means of maintaining lawful immigration control. Any time limit would encourage those who seek to frustrate the removal process to run down the clock until the time limit is reached and release is guaranteed, regardless of the proximity of removal and the facts of the case.
At the end of March the High Court ruled that the Government's approach to detention during the coronavirus outbreak was sensible and the appropriate precautionary measures were in place. The public rightly expect law and order to be maintained during the outbreak and it is important to remember that those currently in detention are foreign national offenders. Ministers have assured me that the Home Office will only detain people where it is absolutely necessary on a case by case basis and decisions are kept under constant review.
I understand that you may have concerns for the wellbeing of detainees and staff. The Home Office is following all the relevant guidance on coronavirus and have extensive plans in place including measures such as protective isolation. I am glad that appropriate personal protective equipment is available to contractors and healthcare staff when interacting with those detainees being held in isolation. It may reassure you to know that as detainees arrive at immigration removal centres, they are medically assessed by a nurse within two hours of arrival and by a doctor with 24 hours.
This is of course an unprecedented time and I know the Home Office is working hard to ensure people are not unfairly affected by circumstances beyond their control. You may be pleased to know that the Government is keeping family immigration requirements under review and this includes the minimum income requirement. I have been assured that Ministers will make adjustments where it is necessary.
I understand that the Government has already introduced measures to support and help those with immigration status. If an individual is in the UK and their leave is expiring, their visa will be extended to the 31 July 2020 if they are unable to leave the UK due to travel restrictions or self-isolation relating to Coronavirus.
Thank you again for contacting me.
Craig Whittaker MP