Carmichael calls for end to unlimited detention of immigrants

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has used a parliamentary debate on the use of immigration detention to argue for a more humane and cost-effective system.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Carmichael said:

“During the most recent survey period, 216 people left detention after more than 12 months. It is worth reflecting on the sheer scale of that. My greatest concern is that, ultimately, only 38% of such people were required to leave the country. Therefore, the system is not just inhumane, but inefficient. It is not doing the job that we as taxpayers require it to do.”

“It is worth comparing how we treat those detained for immigration purposes with how we treat other people in our community whom we detain in the criminal justice system and the mental health system. In neither case do we detain people without a time limit or any sort of judicial supervision of their detention. Frankly, if we rightly apply such a standard for our own people, why should the standard be different for those who come here fleeing persecution in other countries?

“If I could make only one change, it would be in relation to the need for a time limit. In my time as a prosecutor, when we detained somebody or remanded them in custody, they had to be brought to trial within 40 days on a summary complaint or within 110 days on an indictment. Those were very demanding timescales to meet, and it could be very difficult to do so, particularly for complex crimes. However, such people were given priority because they had been deprived of their liberty. If that is how we treat people suspected of a crime, I see no reason why we should treat people seeking refuge any differently.”

Commenting after the debate Mr Carmichael said:

“It was remarkable that support for a change in the law here came from all parts of the House including the Conservatives.   The government is currently carrying out a consultation on possible changes.  Once that review is reported we shall be pressing for changes to be made to make our immigration system a bit more humane.”