With David Cameron’s announcement today that the Government will not oppose what has come to be known as the Dubs Amendment (Lords amendment 87: Unaccompanied refugee children: relocation and support), two issues of contention remain to be resolved next week, which will require the votes of MPs. They are the detention of pregnant women and judicial oversight.
Tzelem is following the lead of The Detention Forum by focusing on the judicial oversight amendment. 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 to the Government.
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 though this falls short of a time limit of 28 days that we are advocating for, we welcome an attempt to instill a new practice within the Home Office where any detention beyond 28 days must be authorised by the First-Tier Tribunal, creating a new norm that detention beyond 28 days must be exceptional and requires a judicial oversight.
The Rambsbotham 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 people. 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 people, given the Government’s poor record of preventing detention of vulnerable people, 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.
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