Bishop calls for an end to indefinite detention


Bishop Paul McAleenan has written to MPs calling for the introduction of a 28-day time limit on immigration detention.

Britain is the only European country without a statutory time limit on detention but that could change as MPs consider the Immigration and Social Security Coordination Bill currently making its way through Parliament. 

There is strong cross-party support for an amendment to the Bill that would limit the number of days people could be held in an immigration detention centre to 28.

Harriet Harman, the Chair of the Joint Human Rights Committee report, has voiced support for the introduction of the time limit, as have a group of Conservative MPs in a letter to the Home Secretary.

The Bishops Conference of England and Wales is asking people to get behind the proposal by calling on their MPs to end indefinite detention. 

In his letter to MPs, Bishop McAleenan said that detaining people indefinitely 'does not reflect the justice due to every person that we as a nation pride ourselves on upholding'.

He said that the current system is leaving some parents separated from their children with no guarantee of when they will be reunited, while in some cases, people with irregular immigration status are being held in the detention centres for months or even years. 

It was a concern, he added, that those falling victim to indefinite detention include vulnerable groups of people, such as victims of torture, sex trafficking or religious persecution, as well as those with severe mental health conditions. 

Last November, the bishop met detainees at the Heathrow Immigration Removal Centres where the Jesuit Refugee Service runs weekly pastoral support visits. 

Following the visit, he spoke of the hardships faced by those being held in the centres.

'Meeting the men held in Harmondsworth detention drove home the hardships they face, being kept away from their families and their communities indefinitely. It was good to meet with those men, to hear their stories, and to stand with them,' he said.

He added: 'These people are some of the most vulnerable in our society, and as a Church we should be in solidarity with them, and keep them in our prayers.'