The Home Office provided ‘no credible explanation’ as to why two children of the Windrush generation, Paulette Wilson and Anthony Bryan, were wrongfully locked up twice, depriving them of their human right to liberty, according to a report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights published today.
The Committee, made up of MPs and Peers Chaired by Harriet Harman MP, took evidence in person from Ms Wilson and Mr Bryan, (who have been settled in the UK since childhood) and examined their Home Office cases files. From the outset, the files contained all the evidence that showed that the Home Office had no right to detain them. But the Home Office still wrongly detained them, twice. The analyses of the two case files are set out as appendices to the report.
In evidence to the Committee, the Home Secretary said that he was sorry for what had happened. A senior official from the Home Office called the handling of these cases a ‘mistake’ but could give the Committee no account of any action that had been taken at the department to address the very serious shortcomings in these cases.
Chair of the Committee, Ms Harriet Harman MP, said:
“Our report presents the Home Secretary with an opportunity to address the systemic problems with wrongful detention at the Home Office. Paulette Wilson and Anthony Bryan were both locked up, twice, when the state had no right to deprive them of their liberty. The Department simply ground forward through their processes, clearly traumatising Ms Wilson and Mr Bryan in the process.
“The Home Secretary’s personal commitment to human rights is important. This report should alert him to the scale of human right violations within the powerful department he now leads.
“It is simply not plausible that these cases were just ‘mistakes’. The Home Office did not behave like a department which had discovered it had made a terrible mistake, demonstrating a systemic failure when it comes to detaining individuals and depriving them of their liberty. What happened to these two people was a total violation of their human rights by the state’s most powerful government department. It needs to face up to what happened before it can even begin to acknowledge the scale of the problem and stop it happening again.”
The Committee recommends that:
- The Home Office should review its use of detention for immigration purposes to ensure it doesn’t use it unlawfully and that it is only using these powers where necessary and proportionate.
- There should be a fundamental change in the law, culture and procedures to protect human rights in the work of the Home Office.
- A more humane approach to dealing with people who come into contact with the immigration enforcement system is needed.
- There should be more accountability when initiating or prolonging detention and stronger safeguards overall to prevent against wrongful detention.
- There should be more opportunities to challenge wrongful detention and clear parameters to limit the use of detention.
- Detention should only be used if the Secretary of State is satisfied that he has a power to detain.
- The Government should act immediately to set up a hardship fund to help individuals from the Windrush generation facing financial hardship, as recently recommended by the Home Affairs Committee.
The Committee intends to conduct a further inquiry into the UK's immigration detention system in the Autumn, in which the Committee will consider concerns around the safeguards in the immigration detention system in the UK, including the UK’s lack of a set time limit to immigration detention, which is unusual.
In a recent letter sent to the Home Office, the Committee asked to examine the case files of all those who have been wrongfully detained from the Windrush generation.