A 28-day limit on immigration detention could save the government tens of millions each year, according to a report commissioned by the human rights group Liberty.
The latest publication, released on May 8, found that the government could make long-term net savings of between £25 and 35 million each year with the 28-day restriction.
The report — titled Economic impacts of immigration detention reform — also concluded that there are potential long-term cost savings of up to £65 million each year if such a measure was introduced.
UK Lags Behind Europe In Introducing Time Limits
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Liberty commissioned Cambridge Econometrics to carry out data analysis of the financial costs of detaining immigrants. It is the first time the group has put forward a case for an immigration detention time limit on economic grounds.
At present, the UK is the only country in Europe without a statutory time limit for holding an individual in immigration detention.
Sam Grant, policy and campaigns manager at Liberty, said: “Locking people up without a time limit is unjust, ineffective and inhumane—and now we know it’s expensive, too.
“The Government has a unique opportunity to create a more just system while saving tens of millions of pounds at the same time by introducing a 28-day time limit.
“This win-win policy would create a cheaper, more humane system.”
Locking people up without a time limit is unjust, ineffective and inhumane – and now we know it’s expensive, too.
Sam Grant, policy and campaigns manager at Liberty
The Home Office spent £108 million on immigration detention in the year 2017/18.
Liberty’s publication comes after former boxer Kelvin Bilal Fawaz was detained, reportedly without his medical to treat his mental health, in an immigration dispute.
Home Office Detention Figures Only Tell Half The Story
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In a statement to RightsInfo, a Home Office spokesperson said: “There has been much debate about the introduction of a 28-day time limit, but as Stephen Shaw [prisons and probation ombudsman for England and Wales] noted, it rests mainly on slogans rather than evidence.
“This is why the Home Secretary commissioned an internal review of how time limits work in other countries and how they relate to any other protections within the detention systems in these countries.
“No one is detained indefinitely.
“Most people detained under immigration powers spend only short periods in detention. In 2018, 92 per cent of those detained were removed or released from detention within four months, and 69 per cent in less than 29 days.”
According to Liberty’s new report, around 25,000 people were detained in 2018. On average, nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of people detained were released within 28 days, with 99 per cent released within a year.
However, there are individual reports of the Home Office detaining immigrants for years, or putting people into detention again following their release, which is not accurately reflected by government statistics.
Meanwhile, it was recently reported that the Home Office is set to scrap the current six-month wait limit on asylum applications, despite warnings that further delays could see a spike in legal challenges, as well as a decline in mental health among seekers.
In April, a report by the Prison Inspectorate found that incidents of self-harm have tripled over three years at one detention centre in Colnbrook, with 65 cases recorded between April and September 2018.