It is important that MPs are informed and encouraged to support Lord Ramsbotham’s amendment (Amendment 84), which provides far greater scrutiny over the Home Office’s power to detain than the Government has been willing to agree to so far.
After the Government has had to back down on the Dubs amendment, they are unlikely to want to face another defeat. Therefore, it is crucial that we apply as much pressure as possible on the Government to hammer in the message that we need a radical reform of detention, not a meaningless gesture just to appease us.
The Government has already tried to water down the Ramsbotham amendment, by offering their own amendment, which would implement automatic bail hearings for those who have not applied for bail for six months. The Lords voted down the Government amendment and sent back the Ramsbotham amendment to the Commons, reasoning that this is unsatisfactory.
The Detention Forum’s briefing here explains why we support the Ramsbotham amendment. Even thought this falls short of a time limit of 28 days that we are advocating for, we welcome an attempt to instil a new practice within the Home Office where any detention beyond 28 days must be authorised by the First-Tier Tribunal. This creates a new norm that detention beyond 28 days must be exceptional and requires a judicial oversight; and this introduction of judicial oversight is, in itself, quite significant in the UK context.
The Ramsbotham amendment reflects a cross-party concern at the over-use of detention expressed both by the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Use of Immigration Detention and the Shaw Review. Given that the vast majority of individuals held in immigration detention do make bail applications within six months of being detained, the Government amendment would only benefit a small number of individuals. Those who might benefit are likely to be the ones who are extremely vulnerable. While the Government might insist that their new ‘adults at risk’ policy would prevent detention of such individuals, given the Government’s poor record of preventing detention of vulnerable pepole, we believe it is highly inappropriate for the Government to suggest that such people can be left in detention for six months without judicial oversight. Therefore, we urge MPs to support the Ramsbotham amendment. The Government amendment will do very little to change the UK culture of detention.
You might like to consider emailing or tweeting your MPs to let your view known. When the Commons defeated the Ramsbotham amendment, it was defeated by 36 votes. The Government might offer some sort of compromise before 9th May, in order to avoid another vote. We expect the Government’s new amendment to be made public late tomorrow (Thursday 5 May).
There might a feeling among supporters that, after the Dubs amendment concession, there is nothing left to do with the Immigration Bill. That is far from the truth and we would be grateful if you can continue to encourage your supporters and others to lobby their MPs.
You can read other organisations’ blogs as well, which provide more background information.
Detention Action – Lords defeat the Government again over detention