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A new paper published today reveals that the Home Office has detained 295 people since the UK entered lockdown on 23rd March.

The new report by the Home Office Analysis and Insight Directorate Statistics relating to COVID 19 and the immigration system shows that between 23rd March and the end of April, 295 people entered detention centres. This does not include people who were brought in to detention from prison, so the exact number of new arrivals in detention is likely to be higher.

The paper describes 231 of those detained as ‘clandestine entrants’ who were held for processing in a short-term holding facility (up to seven days).

Lack of testing

To date, there has been no published policy on testing in immigration detention settings, and exact figures relating to those with symptoms or confirmed cases are unavailable. This approach by the Home Office is in contrast to the Ministry of Justice who publish daily briefings including the numbers tested, and confirmed cases, across prisons. It is not clear why this same level of transparency is not being applied to detention, given the heightened risk both prisons and detention environments pose.

Drop in numbers

Following the official immigration statistics released last week, today’s bulletin provides a bit more detail on the downwards trend in numbers being held. At the start of May 2020 there were 313 people held in detention centres. A similar number were being held in prisons. This is an all time low, from 1,728 at the start of the year.

What happens now?

There remain around 700 people being held under immigration act powers in prisons and detention. AVID, with our members and others, will continue to call for their release. That anyone is being held for administrative convenience during a global health crisis is hard to understand. But a broader question looms. If it is possible to release this number of people, and the sky didn’t fall down, how can the Home Office go back to claiming that detention is really necessary?

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