Call for immigration centre detainees to be released during pandemic

There is a call for immigration centre detainees in the UK to be released to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

By Claire Lewis
Sunday, 12th April 2020, 12:03 pm
Updated Sunday, 12th April 2020, 12:04 pm

Alison Thewliss, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on immigration detention, has asked the Home Secretary for detainees to be temporarily released due to the pandemic.

It comes after a case of Covid-19 was confirmed at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre close to Gatwick airport on April 7.

There is a call for immigration centre detainees to be temporarily released during the coronavirus pandemic (Pic: Getty Images)

This was the second case brought to the attention of the APPG following the first confirmed case at Yarl's Wood IRC on March 22.

However, a High Court case brought by charity Detention Action last month heard there may be at least two further cases.

MP Ms Thewliss called the latest case ‘entirely avoidable’ and expressed her concern, particularly for detainees with pre-existing conditions.

In a letter to the Home Secretary, Ms Thewliss wrote: “The confirmation of a new coronavirus case at Brook House demonstrates the danger detainees are continuing to be put in.

“Now more than ever, protection must be prioritised over immigration targets.

“Immigration removal centres are high risk for clusters of Covid-19 with staff providing a conduit for infection to and from the community.

“The continued spread of the virus clearly highlights the very real risk of uncontrolled outbreaks.”

The Ministry of Justice previously announced that up to 4,000 low-risk prisoners will be temporarily released from jail in an effort to try to control the spread of coronavirus.

Welcoming that decision, Ms Thewliss continued: “The release of prisoners, however, begs the question as to why immigration detainees, none of whom are serving a criminal sentence, are still being held.”

As of Wednesday, 149 prisoners had tested positive for the virus, and at least 10 prisoners had died.

Ms Thewliss added: “I call on you to do all you can to avoid any such similar deaths in detention and urge you - once more - to arrange for the release of all immigration detainees with immediate effect.”

As of March 23, there were 736 people in detention in the UK.

If released, government guidance states that detainees could have to wear an electronically monitored tag.