22 April 2016

The UK government has announced that it will end ‘the routine detention of pregnant women’ in immigration centres. It has agreed to propose an amendment to the Immigration Bill, which is currently being considered by Parliament, to introduce a time limit of 72 hours on the detention of pregnant women. This time limit is extendable to up to a week with Ministerial approval. 

The amendment follows a vote by the House of Lords and campaigns calling for an outright ban in view of the trauma caused by detention, which could endanger the health of pregnant women and their unborn children. Guidelines already in place indicate that pregnant women should only be detained in exceptional circumstances, given their particular vulnerability. However, recent investigations indicated that this was not the case in practice.  

ECRE Member, the British Refugee Council considers that this move does not go far enough. Advocacy Manager Anna Musgrave stated that “It’s disappointing that the Government has chosen to defy the Lords, defy public opinion and defy common sense by choosing to continue imprisoning pregnant women.”

In related news, a freedom of information request has revealed that the UK government paid £18 million over the last four years in compensation to those who were unlawfully held in detention centres.

The pressure continues to build on the government to reform its policies of immigration detention, during the passage of the Immigration Bill, including to put a time limit on the length of such detention.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 22 April 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.