Bishops want time limit on UK immigration detention

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Catholic and Anglican Bishops have urged MPs to support a time-limit on immigration detention ahead of a crucial vote in Parliament this week. Their letter published in The Telegraph said:

The UK is the only European country that still holds people in indefinite immigration detention. This has devastating consequences for the wellbeing of vulnerable individuals who are detained, including survivors of torture, victims of human trafficking and people fleeing religious persecution. It also has a significant impact on families who are separated with no indication of when they might be reunited.

As Christians, we recognise this practice is a violation of human dignity. We welcome cross-party efforts led by David Davis MP to end indefinite immigration detention, replacing it with a 28-day time limit and robust judicial oversight.

Last year, the longest detention stood at 1,002 days. It is hard to imagine the devastating effect this must have had. But it is not hard to see that a system which routinely detains people for months and years is manifestly unfit for purpose.

Things must now change. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted serious health risks in our crowded detention centres. It has also shown how unnecessary prolonged detention really is, with close to 1,000 people being released in a matter of weeks.

As with the pandemic, we must follow the evidence. Last year the Home Affairs Select Committee, the Joint Committee on Human Rights and HM Inspector of Prisons, all carefully examined the operation of our detention system and called for a time limit to be introduced.

We hope that MPs of all parties will take this opportunity to end a practice that is inhumane and totally unnecessary.

Rt Rev Paul McAleenan
Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster

Rt Rev William Nolan
Bishop of Galloway

Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally DBE
Bishop of London

Rt Revd Vivienne Faull
Bishop of Bristol

Rt Revd Christopher Chessun
Bishop of Southwark

Rt Revd Dr John Perumbalath
Bishop of Bradwell

Rt Revd Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani
Bishop of Loughborough

Rt Revd Jonathan Clark
Bishop of Croydon