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Major defeat for government as Lords vote through time limit for immigration detention

This week the House of Lords voted on cross-party amendments to the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill that would end the Government’s highly controversial system of indefinite immigration detention, replacing it with a strict 28-day time limit and automatic judicial oversight. In a major defeat for the Government, the Time Limit on Immigration Detention Amendment was voted through late last night by 184 votes to 156, a majority of 28. The Amendment, initially tabled by former Conservative cabinet minister David Davis, will now return to the House of Commons with support from a growing number of Conservative MPs, including former cabinet ministers Andrew Mitchell and Steve Baker, former Children’s Minister Tim Loughton, and Richard Fuller, as well as the support of all main opposition parties. The reforms contained in the Amendment would put an end to plans recently floated by Home Secretary Priti Patel for off-shore detention facilities on ferries, oil rigs and overseas territories, which have already been roundly condemned as unworkable and inhumane. The proposed reforms reflect a large body of evidence in favour of a time limit for immigration detention. In 2019 the Home Affairs Select Committee recommended a time limit of 28 days, noting that, “While the indefinite nature of detention traumatises those who are being held, it also means that there is no pressure on the Home Office to make swift decisions on individuals’ cases.” Last year the Joint Committee on Human Rights and HM Inspector of Prisons also called for a time limit. In addition, analysis by Liberty and Cambridge Econometrics found that a 28-day time limit would save the taxpayer £35million per year. The Home Office currently detains around 24,000 people each year indefinitely in Immigration Removal Centres, the purpose of which is supposed to be to effect imminent removal from the UK. At the end of 2019, the longest detention stood at 1,002 days, and 62% of those detained by the Home Office were released into the community rather than being removed from the UK. Last night’s Report Stage debate saw passionate speeches from Peers on the urgent need for a time limit. Baroness Bull CBE, said: "We spend £100 million a year on detention. As we emerge from Covid-19 we can ill afford to be throwing money away. This amendment is a gift to the Chancellor."

Bella Sankey, Director of Detention Action, said: "Do-gooding Peers in the House of Lords have delivered a landmark defeat for the Home Secretary, voting at past midnight to enact a 28-day time limit on immigration detention. This amendment, if upheld by MPs, would end all possibility of the inhumane offshore detention camps being dreamt up by Dominic Cummings."

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