Explore alternatives to detention for refugees, urges JRS

The Jesuit Refugee Service UK (JRS-UK) has shared its experience of immigration detention with the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Refugees and Migration with a view to improving the conditions under which refugees are detained. Chaired by Sarah Teather MP, the APPG invited written evidence from a broad range of stakeholders, including charities and voluntary organisations working with detainees as well as government representatives and civil servants. It also asked for the views of detainees themselves (past and present) and their families.

The Inquiry into the Use of Immigration Detention encouraged groups working with detainees – such as JRS-UK – to conduct their own oral and written evidence sessions in order to provide opportunities for people to tell their stories and to build their evidence on the basis of this direct input.

Among the recommendations in the Submission to the APPG on Refugees by Jesuit Refugee Service UK is the need for a time limit to detention and the provision of well-funded good quality legal representation for detainees. In addition to its criticisms of basic amenities at Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs) such as ventilation, food and privacy, JRS identifies healthcare as a particular cause for concern.

Dignity

“Detainees tell us that they feel they are neither listened to nor are they treated with respect or dignity by the healthcare staff,” the Submission says. “It is questionable whether anyone with ongoing potentially serious health problems ought to be detained at all,” it concludes.

JRS-UK is part of an international Catholic non-governmental organisation in 50 countries worldwide, founded in 1980 by Fr Pedro Arrupe SJ in response to refugees fleeing from Vietnam. It questions whether detention is even appropriate in a lot of cases. “(It) should not be considered the norm,” it says in its Submission. “And detention of irregular migrants should be avoided to the utmost extent possible.” It adds that it should not be used as a deterrent, should never last for more than two months and should always be subject to a judicial review.

In its Submission to the APPG on Refugees and Migration, JRS-UK concludes that alternatives to detention should be explored, saying that they should be “meaningful and should provide the necessary conditions to allow the migrant or asylum seeker to properly consider his/her options”.

The APPG on Refugees and the APPG on Migration has been conducting a parliamentary inquiry into the use of immigration detention in the UK over the summer. It has been examining the use of detention in the UK immigration and asylum systems, with a particular focus on the conditions within detention centres, the impact on individual detainees and their families, the wider financial and social consequences, how detention is used in other countries, and the future role of detention within the immigration system. Following the receipt of evidence, the inquiry aims to publish a report in early 2015.

Inquiry into the Use of Immigration Detention JRS UK submission.pdf