Manchester Jeff Smith MP on Britain's Immigration and Detention

I appreciate that immigration detention can cause real distress and anxiety and I agree that the indefinite detention of people in the asylum and immigration system should never be allowed. 

Indeed, I was elected on a manifesto at the last election which was committed to ending indefinite detention in our immigration system. 

A report by the All Party Parliamentary Groups on Refugees and Migration in March 2015 raised a number of concerns about the way our immigration detention system is currently operating. 

The report recommended a time limit of 28 days on detention and, in particular, that there should be a greater emphasis on alternatives to detention. 

It was also clear from Stephen Shaw's important Review into the Welfare in Detention of Vulnerable Persons, published in January 2016, that the rules meant to protect vulnerable people are not working and that there is near universal acceptance that detention makes people more vulnerable. 

While the Government's Immigration Bill was making its way through Parliament, the House of Lords, through Opposition support, passed an amendment on 15 March 2016 to introduce a 28-day limit on immigration detention unless extended by a court in exceptional circumstances. 

I believe this amendment struck the right balance while managing risk and I therefore supported it when the Bill returned to the House of Commons on 25 April 2016. Disappointingly, the amendment was defeated by Government MPs and removed from the Bill. 

The Government did eventually accept that there should be some judicial oversight of administrative immigration detention and introduced an amendment for a four-month limit, and this was included in the Bill. 

This is, of course, markedly different to a 28-day limit, and I believe the Government could have gone further. The Immigration Bill has completed its passage through Parliament and is now an Act of Parliament, having received Royal Assent on 12 May 2016. 

It is vital that our immigration system is fair and effective and it is clear that more needs to be done to improve it. 

Jeff Smith is the Member of Parliament for Manchester Withington and is affiliated with the Labour Party. Jeff sent this comment to the Iraq Solidarity Campaign, the organisation which runs Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra).

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