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Catholic and Anglican bishops call for end to indefinite detention

Catholic and Anglican Bishops have called on British MPs to get behind a time-limit provision on immigration detention, echoing calls from a number of Tory rebels ahead of an important vote in parliament this week.

In their joint letter, the Bishops urged that the UK's policy of indefinite detention causes "devastating consequences for the wellbeing of vulnerable individuals" and has a "significant impact on families who are separated with no indication of when they might be reunited". 

They added: "As Christians, we recognise this practice is a violation of human dignity. We welcome cross-party efforts led by David Davis MP to end indefinite immigration detention, replacing it with a 28-day time limit and robust judicial oversight. 

"Last year, the longest detention stood at 1,002 days. It is hard to imagine the devastating effect this must have had. But it is not hard to see that a system which routinely detains people for months and years is manifestly unfit for purpose.

"Things must now change. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted serious health risks in our crowded detention centres. It has also shown how unnecessary prolonged detention really is, with close to 1,000 people being released in a matter of weeks.

"As with the pandemic, we must follow the evidence. Last year the Home Affairs Select Committee, the Joint Committee on Human Rights and HM Inspector of Prisons, all carefully examined the operation of our detention system and called for a time limit to be introduced.

"We hope that MPs of all parties will take this opportunity to end a practice that is inhumane and totally unnecessary." 

Yesterday, Catholic charity Jesuit Refugee Service UK (JRS UK) released a report which found that the indefinite and arbitrary process of immigration detention often results in devastating physical and emotional damage for the detainee.

Sarah Teather, director of JRS UK said: "This report provides further damning evidence of the tragic and dehumanising effects of the Home Office's use of immigration detention. This research speaks to 20 years of experience of immigration detention in the UK.

"It is clear from those interviewed that being physically detained, as well as the looming threat of detention, irreversibly impact mental and physical wellbeing and cause life-long pain and trauma."

Former Conservative cabinet ministers David Davis and Andrew Mitchell, along with several other leading Tory rebels, are pushing for an amendment to the immigration bill that would limit detention times to a maximum of 28 days.

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