‘It is not terribly easy for a family unit to abscond’

Dave Wood, UK Border Agency’s director of criminality and detention, gave oral evidence before the Home Affairs Select Committee on 16 September, 2009. His opening remarks follow here and on-line at www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmhaff/970/09091604.htm



Q24 Chairman: Mr Wood, may I thank you very much come for coming to give evidence today. It was at very short notice and I appreciate the fact that you have flown back from your holiday just to be present at this session and the Committee is extremely grateful for this. We are meeting in September and it is good that you have been able to come.

Mr Wood: This is a very important subject to us.

Q25  Chairman: It is and we are very grateful to you for coming here. Why are children detained under the immigration system, because they have not done anything wrong, have they?

Mr Wood: No, absolutely, they have done nothing wrong. I think the earlier debate is relevant to what I am about to say. In reality we only detain children in family units. I can deal with very short-term detention in other circumstances. We detain families because these are families who have no right to be in the United Kingdom. These are people whose appeals have expired and who have been judged by tribunals to have no right to remain in the United Kingdom. These will be families whom we have engaged with the whole period of time through the process, encouraging them and letting them know that at the end of the process they have to leave the United Kingdom if they are judged to be here unlawfully. Then we ask the people to go voluntarily. The families we detain are those who refuse to leave the United Kingdom, those who have not left voluntarily and that is why we detain them. I do feel that our immigration policy would be in difficulty if we did not have that ability to detain them because it would act as a significant magnet and pull to families from abroad to come to the United Kingdom because, in effect, once they got here they could just say, “I am not going.” Whilst issues are raised about absconding, that is not our biggest issue. It does happen but it is not terribly easy for a family unit to abscond. What we get to is saying to the family, “You have no right now to be in the United Kingdom, you have to leave,” and then they refuse, so the only way we can enforce that is by detaining them. When we detain families we detain them to remove only. When we detain families it is our expectation that they will be there less than a week. The reasons that some end up there longer is they create new judicial reviews and other legal processes, a lot of which are spurious, the NAO found earlier this year, which would accord with our. . .

Continues on-line.