The Detention Forum and the UNHCR are jointly organising a parliamentary panel discussion on immigration detention to mark International Human Rights Day on 10 December 2012. The meeting is hosted by The All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group (PHRG) and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees. Lord Avebury and Sarah Teather MP have kindly agreed to chair the meeting.
UNHCR’s guidelines on detention, published in September 2012, make clear that seeking asylum is not a criminal act, and that indefinite and mandatory forms of detention are prohibited under international law. However, many countries continue to detain asylum-seekers, sometimes for long periods and in poor conditions, which can have serious physical and psychological consequences. Detention is used in a growing number of countries, despite UNHCR research showing that irregular migration is not deterred even by stringent detention practices.
In the UK, detention is increasingly used as a tool of immigration control: around 27,000 migrants were held in immigration detention centres last year. On three separate occasions, the High Court has found that the UK Border Agency violated detained individuals’ Article 3 rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. Immigration detention must be recognised as an international and domestic human rights issue which requires close scrutiny by parliamentarians, monitoring bodies and civil society.
Ali McGinley of Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees who co-convenes Detention Forum Vulnerable People Working Group said “These cases are not isolated incidents, but form a pattern of systemic failings within the detention regime. We are concerned that lessons are not being learnt despite these findings by the High Court. Proper systems need to be put in place to protect the most vulnerable so that this doesn’t happen again.”
Speakers include Roland Schilling, UNHCR Representative to the UK; Philip Amaral, Jesuit Refugee Service Europe/ International Detention Coalition and a refugee with experience of immigration detention in the UK.
The meeting is aimed at MPs, peers, monitoring bodies, legal practitioners and representatives from NGOs. If your organisation would like to invite MPs and peers to the meeting, please contact Eiri Ohtani at detentionforum(at)gmail.com.