View from the House: We must continue to support those fleeing from persecution

PUBLISHED: 12:00 10 March 2018


The national debate around Brexit has tragically taken place in an atmosphere of increasing xenophobia, where we are seeing a sharp rise in anti-Semitic, racial and Islamophobic incidents.

The outgoing Metropolitan police chief for counter terrorism has said that a third of all terrorist cells under investigation are far right individuals and groups. Worryingly, this is replicated across Europe as the Far Right is gathering strength. I have already tabled a number of parliamentary questions to the home secretary urging her to address this worrying trend, and I fully support Labour’s manifesto commitment to increase funding for our policing services to help tackle such hate crimes and also deal specifically with the rise of the far right.

This Tory government has sworn to provide ‘a hostile environment’ for immigrants, showing in the general election of 2015 that it was serious by having its ‘Go Home’ vans drive around Turnpike Lane in our local neighbourhood.

Now the woman who authorised those very vans clings onto power in Number 10.

Tragically, many with immigration problems are being detained indefinitely. More than 27,000 people were detained in the last year and the number of people being held for very long periods of more than six months has increased.

The UK is now the only country in the European Union not to have an upper time limit on detention and some people are held for months or years with no release date.

I visited a detention centre near a London airport recently and was left with an enormous sense of sadness at the distress, confusion and depression of detainees suffering a sense of hopelessness. I agree with Diane Abbott MP, shadow home secretary, who said: “Indefinite detention, with no release date, is just wrong”.

There are of course many cases in which the individual concerned should be deported, whether that relates to criminal activity, human trafficking or concerns around public safety.

Whether an individual should be deported should be decided by a proper process. However, for a huge number of cases, individuals are left to suffer in limbo behind bars and concrete. Already vulnerable people are, effectively, being held indefinitely despite the fact that the majority of them have committed no crime.

Many of these cases have strong grounds for leave to remain in the UK. Indeed MPs deal with scores of such cases every month. To be frank, the home office is not fit for purpose.

Great Britain has a proud history of helping people flee persecution, but many are deeply worried that Britain’s reputation is being damaged by the continuation of this abuse of human rights.

I was proud to stand on a manifesto that was committed to unilaterally ending indefinite detention and upholding the proud British tradition of honouring the spirit of international law and our moral obligations by taking our fair share of refugees. It’s time for a change.

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