By: Suzanne Lambert

COVID-19 and Immigration Detention

30 April 2020 by

Brook House IRC. Image: The Guardian

At the start of the year, some 1,200 immigrants were being held in immigration detention in the UK. The power to detain immigrants is separate from detention of individuals as part of a criminal sentence. There is a presumption against detention of immigrants and immigration detention, which can only be in accordance with one of the statutory powers (the majority of which are contained in the Immigration Act 1971 and the Immigration and Asylum Act 2002), and is allowed in the interests of maintaining effective immigration control, for example, to effect removal; to establish a person’s identity or the basis of their immigration claim; or where there is reason to believe that the person will fail to comply with any conditions attached to a grant of immigration bail.

In order to be lawful, not only must immigration detention be in accordance with one of the statutory powers, but it must also be in accordance with the limitations implied by the domestic common law and Strasbourg case law (ECHR Article 5), as well as with stated Home Office policy. Under the common law and ECHR Article 5, the statutory powers to detain are to be strictly and narrowly construed, i.e. if detention is not for a statutory purpose (or is no longer for that purpose) it will become unlawful. Additionally, the power to detain is impliedly limited to a period that is reasonably necessary for the statutory purpose to be carried out and must be justified in all the circumstances of the individual case, requiring an assessment of individual factors such as the risk of absconding, the likelihood of imminent removal, and the impact on the detainee.

Following news of the first immigration detainee testing positive for COVID-19, there was concern about the risk of COVID-19 deaths in immigration detention and about the legality of continued detention of immigrants. Detention Action Group has sought to challenge the continued detention of immigrants and the steps taken by the Secretary of State to address the position of persons in immigration detention in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

An application for urgent interim relief was made by the Detention Action Group in March for the release of some 736 immigrants in detention and was advanced, first in relation to those whose removal is not reasonably imminent as a result of the global pandemic and the consequential travel bans and restrictions around the world, and secondly in relation to vulnerable detainees such as those who are suffering from serious medical conditions or who are aged 70 and over.

A separate application for urgent interim relief was made by Samson Bello, a Nigerian deportee, seeking release from detention on the basis that restrictions to travel to Nigeria meant that his continued detention for the purposes of removal was no longer lawful. Both of these cases are discussed in detail below.

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‘Casual’ and ‘fragmented’ approach to welfare of immigration detainee resulted in his death

16 March 2020 by

Prince Fosu (Image: the Guardian)

Following an Article 2 inquest into the tragic death of Prince Fosu, a vulnerable foreign national detained in an immigration removal centre, a jury has found that Mr Fosu’s death was avoidable and was caused by a number of gross failures on the part of the Home Office and various agencies to provide appropriate care in immigration detention at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre.


Mr Fosu, a car parts dealer from Ghana, entered the UK in April 2012 on a valid business visa. However, on arrival, he was refused leave to enter. His subsequent in-country appeal was rejected in September 2012 and he was booked on a flight to leave the UK on 5 November 2012.

A month after his unsuccessful appeal, he was arrested after walking naked on the road. He continued to act bizarrely at the police station and kept undressing. However, following assessment, mental health professionals at the station determined that he did not need to be sectioned and was fit for detention. When he urinated in his cell, he was seemingly labelled as a “dirty protestor” rather than being re-referred for medical assessment. After three days in police custody, Mr Fosu was transferred to Harmondsworth on the basis that he had overstayed his stay and was liable to immigration removal.

As part of reception screening at Harmondsworth, Mr Fosu was seen by a nurse, who carried out a five-minute healthcare assessment, without having access to any of his medical records. At the inquest the nurse accepted that she had done a “completely inadequate assessment” and that she was “out of her depth”.

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Can the Grenfell Inquiry be a truly modern public inquiry?

22 May 2018 by

Grenfell_Tower_fire_(wider_view)The wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle and the start of the first phase of hearings in the Grenfell Inquiry occurred within hours of each other but could not have been more different in terms of how they were received by the British public.

By welcoming into its ranks a biracial, divorced, professional American actress, the Royal Family appears to have gained some much needed legitimacy, and the very modern Royal wedding, undeniably a celebration of diversity, is perhaps a sign that this bit of the British Establishment is moving with the times.

The start of the Grenfell Inquiry — almost a year after the fire on 14 June 2017 which claimed 71 lives — has not been met with such optimism nor enjoyed such accolades. Instead, from the moment the question of who would chair it arose, the Inquiry has been dogged by accusations of “whitewashing”, a persistent failure to listen to the victims and bereaved, and a failure to give them a proper voice.

Is there any hope that the Grenfell Inquiry will finally gain legitimacy? As with the successful McPherson Inquiry following the Stephen Lawrence murder, recognition of diversity and inclusivity are essential.


Pressure for a Diverse Panel

When retired Court of Appeal judge, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, was named as Chairman of the Inquiry, the announcement was met with much criticism, with lawyers, campaign groups, and MPs calling for Sir Martin to quit. Opposition Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, argued that a diverse Panel would “help to both build trust and deliver justice” and Labour MP, David Lammy, went so far as to suggest that a “white, upper-middle class man” who had possibly never visited a tower block might not be able to “walk with these people on this journey”.

In announcing the Terms of Reference, the Prime Minister indicated that, at that stage, she had not appointed any other members to the Inquiry Panel but she noted that the Inquiries Act 2005 did allow for such appointments to be made with the consent of Sir Martin, during the course of the Inquiry, so that the composition of the Inquiry Panel could be “kept under review”.


R (ota Mr Samuel Daniels) v The Rt Hon Theresa May, the Prime Minister & Sir Martin Moore-Bick [2018] EWHC (1090) Admin — read judgment

On various dates commencing in September 2017, solicitors representing Mr Daniels, the son of an elderly disabled man who died in the Grenfell fire wrote to Sir Martin, the Solicitor to the Inquiry, and the Prime Minister, asking whether the Prime Minister would exercise her powers under s7 of the Inquiries Act to appoint a panel to sit alongside Sir Martin.

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Mirza & Ors: The Rules are neither simple nor flexible so don’t leave it too late

11 January 2017 by

Image result for checking off calendar dates

Mirza and others v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2016] UKSC 63 – read judgment and press summary here.

The background to each of these appeals, although unfortunate, is not in any way extraordinary. Indeed, it is perhaps quite common for those applying for leave to remain to fall foul of procedural requirements or to be caught out by one of the many frequent changes in the legislative scheme governing immigration.

Whereas in most cases the solution may be simply to correct the procedural defect and make a further application, matters become much more complicated for those who apply too close to the date on which their leave to remain expires.

The Supreme Court’s recent decision makes clear that s.3C of the Immigration Act 1971 does not automatically extend a person’s leave to remain. Where leave expires in between the defective application and the fresh one an applicant will simply have run out of time for correction. This was the situation in which all three appellants found themselves.

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“Asylum seeker death driver” case was misunderstood

22 December 2010 by

The Secretary of State for the Home Department v Respondent [2010] UKUT B1 – Read judgment

There has been public outrage over the ruling of two Senior Immigration Judges that it would be unlawful to deport Aso Mohammed Ibrahim, an Iraqi Kurd, who has been labelled an “asylum seeker death driver”

The fury has not been limited to the lay public or the media, but “great anger” has also been expressed by high-profile figures such as Prime Minister David Cameron, a well-known critic of the Human Rights Act. The Government’s embarrassment over the decision has prompted Immigration Minister, Damian Green, to announce that the UK Border Agency (UKBA) will appeal the decision, and there have been more drastic calls from Tory MPs for the scrapping of the Human Rights Act.

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