Parliamentary Debates

We monitor parliamentary debates that have taken place in the House of Commons, relating to immigration detention. A summary of recent debates and links to the original transcripts can be found here.


Debate in House of Commons on Immigration White Paper, February 2018

On 5th February 2018, the House of Commons debated the publication of the proposed Immigration White Paper. This paper will outline plans for the UK’s post-Brexit immigration system. During the debate Caroline Nokes noted that the Immigration paper will not be published until a Brexit transition deal is struck.

During the debate, Heidi Alexander (Labour, Lewisham East) asked how many immigrants from outside the EU who "are in the UK, who have had an immigration application refused, but have not had removal or deportation proceedings initiated against them?" Caroline Nokes replied saying that "we work very hard to make sure that people who are in this country without permission find it a very difficult environment in which to live." She described policies that have made it harder for undocumented immigrants and refused asylum-seekers to have a bank account or a driving licence or to rent property.

Paula Sherriff (Labour, Dewsbury) raised Yarl's Wood IRC and other detention centres as examples of an "obvious injustice" and places where "vulnerable people have been held, effectively indefinitely, when most of them have not actually committed any crime." She asked whether immigration detention will be reviewed in this paper. Caroline Nokes said that "detention will continue to form part of our immigration policy". 

The consultation on the Immigration White Paper will be in October 2018.


Debate in House of Lords on Legal Advice for Asylum Seekers, February 2018

On 5th of February 2018, the House of Lords debated access to adequate legal advice for failed asylum seekers facing removal.

Lord Roberts of Llandudn asked whether the government intended to ensure that anyone facing deportation had access to adequate legal advice. Lord Keen of Elie, answering on behalf of the Government, said that they have "commenced the post-implementation review of legal aid, which will include the scope of legal aid for immigration and asylum cases." and that legal aid is currently available for people challenging their detention and/or asylum refusal. Lord Roberts followed up by stating that many asylum seekers are unable to access legal advice for various reasons. He blamed this lack of access to legal advice for the many "unsound decisions" made by the Home Office that are later reversed. He said that in 10 years there has been a quarter of a million Home Office decisions overturned by appeal. Lord Keen stated that "all persons detained in immigration removal centres now have access to a duty solicitor and therefore have access to legal advice."

Lord Beecham raised the point of the Home Office attempting to deport people who have been living in this country for decades. Lord Keen stated that "the period for which a person has remained illegally in this country should not be and is not a determinant of their right to remain here."

Lord Thomas of Gresford raised issues from a recent report by the Bar Council on immigration detention. He said that 3,000 people at one time are held in immigration detention at a cost of £34,000 per person. Over half are then ultimately released into the community after successful appeals. He raised the specific case of an asylum seeker with mental health challenges who was detained unlawfully and awarded damages. He asked whether the Minister will review "the means and merits test applied by the Legal Aid Agency, which academic research shows operates to exclude detainees from legal aid by, “seizing upon the tiniest thing”, to declare their applications ineligible?" Lord Keen explained that the Legal Aid Agency is independent of Government. "The application of LASPO—the legal aid Act—is the subject of internal review at present."

The Bishop of St. Albans raised points from research by the Children's Society that found that hundreds of children are being left without a legal safety net. "Only 12 grants for exceptional case funding were made in 2015-16, fewer than 1% of the expected number of cases under the previous system." Lord Keen stated that "103 children were put into detention in immigration-related matters in 2016, of which 42 were under 12. Some of those may have been unaccompanied but, under the policy of the 2014 Act, unaccompanied children should not actually go into immigration removal centres; they should be held pending removal decisions. With regard to exceptional case funding, the figures for the first two quarters of 2017 indicate that the success rate for immigration-related applications was 73%. Some 652 applications were made during that period."


Debate on the immigration detention of vulnerable people, March 2017



Parliamentary Debate on Inquiry Findings, September 2015