The Latest – Home Office forced to concede test case on unlawful immigration detention

James Wilson, Acting Director, Detention Action

Yesterday the Home Office was forced to concede an important test case concerning the prolonged unlawful detention of a mentally ill and highly vulnerable man held in immigration detention.

The legal challenge was brought on behalf of AKE, an Iranian national who cannot be named for legal reasons. AKE suffers from bipolar affective disorder with psychotic symptoms and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and had previously been sectioned under the Mental Health Act 1983.

The case was settled when the Home Office conceded that AKE’s detention was unlawful and agreed to regularise his status and pay £100,000 in compensation.

AKE was held in immigration detention for two lengthy periods between 2015 and 2018 totalling 838 days. During his detention the Home Office used segregation as a means to manage his disturbed behaviour, but he received no treatment and was offered no assistance to secure his release from immigration detention.

The Home Office also imposed bail conditions on AKE despite having no lawful power to do so and while he lacked mental capacity to understand and comply with them.

Election candidates from all parties should take note of AKE’s horrific treatment at the hands of the Home Office. We simply do not need to have an immigration detention system in which this is allowed to happen, or one that is so consistently shown to be an utter disaster.

Sadly, at Detention Action, we continue to talk to vulnerable people in detention every day. Under proposals put forward by MPs from all major parties, an absolute time limit would have prevented AKE’s detention beyond 28-days. And the decision as to whether he was too ill or too vulnerable for detention in the first place would have been made impartially in a court within 96 hours rather behind closed doors at the Home Office.

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The UK’s immigration detention system, which detains around 24,000 people per year, has come under increased scrutiny, with much of the criticism focussing on the controversial practice of indefinite detention and the detention of vulnerable people. Recommendations for a time limit have come this year in highly critical reports by the Home Affairs Select Committee, the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the Independent Monitoring Board and HM Inspector of Prisons.

In March of this year, the Home Affairs Select Committee “found serious problems with almost every element of the immigration detention system.”

In the last Parliament, MPs from all the main parties set down a package of reform measures in a widely-supported amendment tabled to the Immigration and Social Security (EU Withdrawal) Bill 2018. The reforms include general criteria for detention, automatic bail hearings after 96 hours and an absolute maximum time limit of 28 days. The Bill passed Committee Stage in the House of Commons but was not carried over to the next Parliament.