Diane Abbott vows to close immigration detention centres insisting suspected illegals should be trusted not to go underground while waiting for deportation
- Diane Abbott demanded an end to ‘hostile environment’ for illegal immigrants
- Said immigration detention centres should be replaced with ‘reporting’ system
- Minister Caroline Nokes warns freeing offenders would put communities at risk
Diane Abbott today demanded that immigration detention centres be shut down – insisting suspected illegals should be trusted not to abscond while waiting for deportation.
The shadow home secretary called for Yarl’s Wood in Bedford and Brook House near Gatwick Airport to be shut down.
Instead thousands of people awaiting decisions on asylum and residency cases should be dealt with by ‘reporting and monitoring’.
Spelling out her determination to ditch the government’s ‘hostile environment’ for illegal immigrants, Ms Abbott also said the Home Office should be obliged to prove that people have no right to remain in the UK.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott today called for Yarl’s Wood in Bedford and Brook House near Gatwick Airport to be shut down
But immigration minister Caroline Nokes hit back saying detention centres were a ‘vital tool’ and communities would be put at risk if serious offenders were freed.
Speaking at the IPPR think-tank in London, Ms Abbott said they would rescind all elements of the immigration legislation used to support the ‘hostile environment’ policy.
Ms Abbott said the Windrush scandal was a ‘direct consequence’ of the approach championed by Theresa May when she was home secretary of making life as difficult as possible for illegal immigrants.
The close Corbyn ally said a Labour government would commit the £20million a year it would save from closing Yarl’s Wood, which is run by Serco, and Brook House, run by G4S, to support the survivors of modern slavery, trafficking and domestic abuse.
‘People are being kept in detention for months, even years on end. They include the Windrush generation, victims of torture, refugees and victims of sexual exploitation,’ she said.
‘Yarl’s Wood in particular has caused so much pain to vulnerable women that we should have been protecting. Diverting these resources directly to them is not only essential, but the right thing to do.’
She added: ‘This Government and its predecessors have long had an obsession with enriching the private sector from the public purse.
‘This is despite the costs, either financially, in shoddy service or in human misery.
‘Labour will end this rotten system. Private firms have no business in detention.’
Ms Abbott said Labour would return responsibility for those currently held in privately-run detention centres to local authorities and introduce a system of ‘reporting and monitoring’ for those subject to potential removal.
The burden of proof in immigration cases would be shifted so that it was up to the Home Office to establish ‘on the balance of probabilities’ whether or not people were entitled to be in the UK before they could be removed.
Ms Abbott said the Windrush scandal was a ‘direct consequence’ of the approach championed by Theresa May (pictured at PMQs today) when she was home secretary
Instead of being held at sites like Brook House (pictured), Ms Abbott said thousands of people awaiting decisions on asylum and residency cases should be dealt with by a ‘reporting and monitoring’ system
She said Labour would also restore ‘proper rights of appeal’ and was considering whether legal aid could be allowed in such cases.
‘If we are going to deprive people of the right to be here, we must be clear that they do not have the right to live here,’ Ms Abbott said.
She added: ‘If Labour under Jeremy Corbyn cannot begin the process of re-framing the debate on migration then I think Jeremy would feel he had failed.’
The announcement comes after new Home Secretary Sajid Javid disclosed on Tuesday that 63 members of the so-called ‘Windrush generation’, who came to the UK from the Commonwealth in the post-war decades, may have been wrongly removed or deported.
Ms Abbott called on Mr Javid to make good a promise to restore full citizenship rights for all Commonwealth citizens who arrived before 1973.
‘The Windrush scandal goes to the very heart of Theresa May’s hostile environment policy – it was not accidental – it is a direct consequence of Government policy,’ she said.
‘Sajid Javid made a promise to make things right for the people who have been treated so appalling by his Government.
‘He should start by restoring full rights of citizenship for all Commonwealth citizens, which his party removed and which has contributed to the tragedies that have fallen on the Windrush generation.
‘Children that have been born here should not have to pay over £1,000 to obtain legal citizenship, simply because their parents were not born in this country. It is theirs as a right, just like it is my right and the right of most people in this room today.’
Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said while the Government was committed to putting right the problems faced by members of the Windrush generation it needed to retain the powers of detention.
‘Immigration detention is a vital tool in helping ensure those with no right to remain in the UK are returned to their home country,’ she said.
‘ And, if this led to the release of serious offenders this could put communities at risk,’ she said.
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