The widespread outbreak of COVID-19 has concerned immigration rights campaigners who worry about the potential effects of an outbreak in the UK’s immigration detention centres. While there is an understandable concern, it seems that Britain’s authorities have acted to ensure that the crisis does not hit centres, by reducing the population of them.
Getting the exact numbers of those released is tricky because of the quick-moving picture, but numbers have dropped dramatically. Most of the former detainees have been sent to UK addresses, but there are anecdotal reports of detainees being let out with nowhere to go and no funds to support them. The situation is grave and conditions in some detention centres would be a cause for concern if COVID-19 outbreaks were to take place.
Also read ‘COVID-19: UK Home Office Under Fire for Immigration Detention and Bail Decisions’.
News stories are emerging of detainees spending up to 24 hours locked away at a time after a recent isolated COVID-19 outbreak, and there are various reports of staff being ill-equipped to deal with the situation. Some charities are rightly concerned.
Karen Doyle from the charity, Movement for Justice, said: “There are reams of reports exposing the problems of immigration detention; how it worsens people’s mental health, how it is costly and ineffective.
“Now we also know the centres can be easily emptied and people can manage their cases in the community.”
While campaigners are asking the Home Office to make major concessions - such as releasing all detainees, the Home Office insists that the vast majority of those in detention are foreign offenders. It must be understood that the public need to be protected from foreign criminals. But these fears must be balanced if someone’s case can be handled in the community as is often the case, then the current risk of detention must surely be too high in all but the most extreme cases.
So far it has been hard to track the number of detainees who have been released from the UK’s IRCs. The picture in the UK’s nine immigration removal centres is a fast-moving one, and figures are being updated regularly. What we know is that over 700 detainees were released between the 16th of March and the 21st of April. This is a staggering figure but may not go far enough to please human rights campaigners, who want to see IRCs closed for good.
Campaigners assert that there are still 368 detainees inside Britain’s IRCs. The numbers are now so low that in one detention centre, Yarl’s Wood, there are as few as 13 detainees remaining. It is also believed that there is a handful of IRCs that are almost empty, leaving the system in a worrying state of disarray.
The system, which relies heavily on outsourcing companies, is ill-prepared to deal with the situation it currently faces. While they bail most detainees to an address, many detainees have reported being allowed to walk out of the door with nowhere to go. The disarray is so bad that one detainee insists that she was told she was being deported and was then dropped off at the local train station!
The Home Office and wider government have a lot on their plate at the moment, but it is worrying how little preparation has been done. Lessons should be learned, but there have to be serious questions of why no planning for a catastrophe such as COVID-19 had been done. While the COVID-19 outbreak is exceptional, it is not understood why there seem to be no emergency measures at all.
While the focus of campaigners has been on the emptying of detention centres, there are also repatriations to consider. The UK is in a state of lockdown - government rules specify that they allow no one to leave their home without an appropriate reason, and should only be going to work if they cannot work from home. So, many people may wonder how immigrants are still being forcibly removed from the UK on flights, especially when so few flights are taking place. Figures have revealed that the Home Office has deported around 50 immigrants since the lockdown began.
The deportations are not likely to stop either, as many of the 368 detainees still in the UK’s detention centres are also waiting for deportation. One of the major stumbling blocks to deportation will be the drop in air travel. Industry estimates show that air travel has reduced by around 95 d;uring the lockdown, meaning that the Home Office will struggle to find flights. This would usually be a rather large problem, but the Home Office has found a novel (and expensive) solution: charter flights. In recent days, The Guardian reported that despite the lockdown, the Home Office chartered a flight from London’s Stansted Airport to return offenders to Poland. They chartered the flight to return around 35 passengers to Poland and between 40 and 50 members of the airline crew and Home Office staff accompanied them. The cramped conditions would have meant that strict social distancing rules would have been impossible to follow. Despite the obvious limitations, the Home Office insists that they adhered to social distancing rules. In a statement, the Home Office said: “We are committed to removing foreign-national offenders wherever possible and follow Public Health England guidance, including social distancing measures, on the flight. Those on the flight also had access to the legal representation they needed.”
While sometimes it may well be necessary to return offenders to their country of origin, it needs considering whether exposing them and Home Office staff members to COVID-19 is proportionate. As well as the exposure, think of the cost. How much would this have all cost? The government needs to be urged to take this matter seriously and consider their approach. The subject of immigration detention and repatriation is already controversial, and this episode will not help the cause.
It's a shame that you dont have an 'Excellent' star rating on here, as my experience with Reiss Edwards is nothing short of an excellent rating. They handled my application for an Indefinite Leave to remain in April 2014 and did my husband's one very recently including my daughter. Every time i have approached them, they have continued to treat me with courtesy, respect and patience. Amar was indeed a very thorough and professional gentleman. He is very knowledgeable, corporative and engaging. He responded to my emails, calls and enquiries promptly. He was always reassuring. I could not have asked for a better Immigration service. I would recommend them over and over again for anyone looking for an immigration advice. They gave me a free immigration advice when i called them, and the quality of the advice was something other charge thousands for. If you need a particular, name, Amar would be it. He exemplifies, for me, the true, professional gentleman. He is a valuable asset to Reiss Edwards.
I am glad that i instructed Reiss Edwards on my visa matter. It started with a 20 minutes free immigration advice. I met with Amar to discuss my ILR refusal. He gave me a great deal of quality advice and decided to take on my messy case. I had doubts on the merits of my case by he was relatively convinced he could win it. That made me quite secure. To be honest, things did not start as quick as I would have wanted, but they kept on communicating the process and state of things to me.A big thank you to Verusha and Foram. They were also very helpful. Brilliant and informative. Their fee was fair and reasonable, especially if you compare them to other law firms and immigration law firms in London; some of whom even told me that i would not be able to get an indefinte leave to remain in this country. The process was long but was worth it. In the end, a big thank you to Reiss Edwards.
Investing over 2 million pounds is defintely not a routine decision. We had to make sure that the Tier 1 investor immigration lawyers that we'd be picking has to be one of the best within the Tier 1 investor category. We contacted Reiss Edwards and they were able to get us not only the Tier 1 investor visa but also suggested profitable investment portfolios in addition to what we already had in mind.
TI have just had British Citizenship application approved. Prior to making the application, i was not sure which law firm i should hire to facilitate the paperwork. After a few hours of research, i decided to go with Reiss Edwards and i must confess that i wasnt disappointed. The immigration lawyers at Reiss Edwards handled my case well and they really knew what they were doing. They were fully aware of what documents I needed and it was easy for them to tell if my case was going to be easy or not. At the end of the day, I have not received my British citizenship within 3 months. If anyone is looking for a good immigration lawyer to handle thier case, contact Reiss Edwards.
My wife's spouse visa extension application was refused by the Home Office and they gave her 14 days to leave the country. We contacted Reiss Edwards and they said "OK don't worry we will sort this out". They put together the list of documents for me to obtain and they prepared a bundle which was as thick as the printer it came out from.We followed everything they asked us to do and in the end we won our appeal and got our spouse visa. We can't recommend them enough and we have promised ourselves never to make any more UK visa applications without them.
The team of lawyers at Reiss Edwards are very professional and friendly people. Their experience in and around UK immigration law is quite extensive; be sure that you application is in safe and competent hands. My immigration matter was an indefinite leave to remain application based on Tier 1 on a self-employment basis. The immigration lawyers at Reiss Edwards made sure that the application was perfect and ready to be accepted. I got a positive decision and I recommend them highly for anyone who needs a UK immigration help.
I contacted Reiss Edwards to help me with my wife's UK settlement visa. They acted with utmost professionalism throughout the entire application. I spoke with Joe Dinh, he is an immigration solicitor and he is one of the best solicitors out there. He ensured that there was little to no room for error. At some point I thought he was over cautious. He remained calmed and continued to assure us on our immigration matter. Most people in his position would have panicked but he was calmed and continued to assure us. We received out positive outcome very quickly.
I have been using Reiss Edwards for three years now for my family's immigration application. Both for my initial application and extension. They are really affordable. The team of solicitors at this firm are probably one of the most efficient and economical in terms of cost. They offered free advice over the phone and spent good time with us before inviting us for consultation.
Reiss Edwards is a top notch immigration service company. The way they handled our documentation and also the list of documents they sent was efficient and top quality. They helped us professionally throughout the process. We are very happy with the immigration advice we received from the team. We highly recommend them.
I used Reiss Edwards immigration lawyers to assist with my immigration matter and that of my family. It was an EX1 application. They dealt with the matter properly and even when complications were coming up from the Home Office, they helped resolve the issue properly. They are very professional and are very popular in London. I am happy to have worked with them.
This is the only firm that i spoke with that didn't ask for money before listening to me, will be using them again.
I used Reiss Edwards for my Tier 2 visa application and it was successful. The team was ever present and happy to answer my question. The caseworker that dealing with my case went on holiday yet by case did not suffer one bit. Another lawyer stepped and took over the case without any hassle.
My Tier 1 Investor Visa was dealt with quickly and without issue. Would recommend Reiss Edwards as an Immigration law firm in London. Thank you to the team.
530 ReviewsREAD ALL REVIEWS