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Immigration Minister writes about alternatives to detention

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Minister of State for Immigration Caroline Nokes writes about the Government’s commitment to explore alternative options to detention as part of the Home Office response to Stephen Shaw’s second review.

"Today I sit before the Joint Council for Human Rights to discuss immigration detention and I will make it absolutely clear that we have an immigration system that is fair and humane and that above all, protects the most vulnerable.

Immigration detention is an important part of that system. It is one of a range of levers we have to deter and tackle immigration abuse.  However, it must be used sparingly and only when we are confident that no other approaches will work.

I am pleased that the number of people in detention continues to decrease. The immigration statistics published last week show there were 41% fewer individuals in detention than a year earlier.

I am also pleased that people are being detained for shorter periods of time.  The overwhelming majority of those who left detention this year were detained for four months or less, and nearly two thirds for less than a month.

However, I know there is more that we can do which is why I am launching a new pilot to keep vulnerable women out of detention.

We are working with Action Foundation, an award winning charity that provides support to asylum seekers, migrants and refugees to run the pilot for 2 years and we plan to support up to 50 women in the community who would otherwise have been detained.

It is right that we treat those we plan to remove with dignity and respect.  We have learned lessons from the past, and I have seen this first hand when I visited Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre, including the provision of a care suite to help support vulnerable women; increasing mental health training so staff can identify residents who are vulnerable and plan the right support for them and refurbishing units to improve residents’ experience.

However, I felt it is important to use Yarl’s Wood for our pilot scheme, which will see up to 21 woman live in the community who would otherwise have been detained.

It may seem like a small start, but this is a step change in the way we handle these cases and we must make sure we get it right and the women are properly supported.

I am ambitious for this pilot, and that’s why we are already also working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to see how we can support other cohorts in communities, both men and women.  We hope to launch further pilots in the New Year.

I plan to use these pilots to understand how we can best support different groups of migrants at risk of immigration detention to resolve their cases within the community, whether that is confirming their status in the UK or returning to their home country.

Working with charities, faith groups and NGOs, these pilots will provide valuable community support and personal stability to those at risk of detention while their case is resolved, an important move to making sure the immigration system supports those who rely on it and works in the best interest of the whole of the UK."


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