The United Kingdom is currently under scrutiny for continuing indeterminate detention sentences for migrants and asylum seekers despite violations to human rights. A recent survey conducted by The Guardian has shown that 84% of migrant detainees in the U.K. have no idea when they will be released, with many of them being held without committing any crime. This includes anyone found to not have a right to reside in the U.K., including asylum seekers and those awaiting decisions on visas. The United Kingdom is the only nation in Europe that is not required to notify prisoners of their release date.
Indeterminate sentences have been revoked in every nation in the EU; the European Court of Human Rights ruled them as “arbitrary and unlawful” in a decision made in 2014. Prisoners have been known to be held from periods of time spanning a few months to five years. The international community has condemned the U.K.’s high immigrant detention rates, pressing for it to only act as a last resort. A 2017 Amnesty International report found that the U.K. had taken into custody 27,819 people in 2016 and 2017.
This report led to new government policy in 2017 in an effort to ensure vulnerable people are not detained inappropriately and without adequate protection. The High Office continues to ignore advice from medical practitioners to assess each individual’s vulnerability to harm. The Guardian survey found that 27% of the prisoners had a history of torture or abuse.
The International Detention Coalition has identified 250 alternative options that are more successful, humane and cost effective. Their research into Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programs and caseworker systems are encouraging and currently used successfully in many countries, with Hong Kong claiming a 97% compliance rate with asylum claimants in their community placement programs. The IDC’s report, There Are Alternatives, showed that along with being inhumane and unnecessary, detention proved to be ineffective for asylum seekers and is considerably more expensive than community program alternatives.
As international conflict intensifies, the protection of people seeking asylum is of utmost importance. Treatment of these immigrants and asylum seekers must proceed as an administrative procedure, not as a criminal one. There is hope for the United Kingdom, after its Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, announced earlier this year that he would consider ending these indeterminate sentences to make the system “more effective and humane.”
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