The Bishop of Durham received the following written answers on 9th November 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Durham asked His Majesty’s Government whether they have adopted the recommendation in the report by Stephen Shaw Review into the Welfare in Detention of Vulnerable Persons (Cm 9186), published in January 2016, to reduce the use of detention for immigration purposes and to explore alternatives.
Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con): The government remains committed to using detention only where necessary. Indeed, the vast majority of people liable to be removed from the UK are granted immigration bail.
Stephen Shaw’s reports (from 2016 and 2018) led to a comprehensive and systematic programme of work to improve and reform immigration detention, informing both our strategic and tactical approach to reform and the treatment of people who are detained. The broad programme of reforms has strengthened our decision-making and safeguards for the vulnerable, ensuring those who are detained are treated with dignity and respect in an estate that is fit for purpose.
As part of the Department’s immigration detention reform programme, we conducted two pilots exploring alternatives to detention. In line with international best practice, each pilot ran for two years before final evaluation.
The first of these pilots, Action Access, provided women who would otherwise be detained with a programme of support in the community. This pilot concluded on 31 March 2021 after operating for two years. The second pilot, the Refugee and Migrant Advisory Service, supported both men and women and concluded in June this year as planned.
We are working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on these pilots and they have appointed the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) to independently evaluate this work. The evaluation report of the Action Access pilot was published on the 24 January 2022 and the report for the Refugee and Migrant Advisory Service is due to be published early next year. We will use the evaluations of these pilots to inform our future approach to case-management focused alternatives to detention.
The immigration removal estate is kept under ongoing review to ensure sufficient resilience and capacity for the men and women it is necessary to detain for the purposes of removal.
In April 2022, faced with an unprecedented situation on the south coast, the Government announced a package of measures to tackle illegal migration, further strengthen safe and legal routes and break the business model of people smuggling gangs. As part of wider work to support this package, the Government announcement confirmed that the removals estate would be expanded. In operating these sites our focus will be on dignity, welfare and safety.
The Lord Bishop of Durham asked His Majesty’s Government whether difficulties in securing the provision of suitable accommodation have delayed any individuals granted an offer of resettlement under Pathway 2 of the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme from travelling to the UK.
Lord Murray of Blidworth: We are pleased to have welcomed the first arrivals to the UK under Pathway 2 of the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS). And we will continue to welcome many more people, as we receive further referrals from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
We anticipate receiving referrals from UNHCR for up to 2,000 refugees during the first year of ACRS Pathway 2 – and it is vital that those who come to the UK through this pathway have somewhere suitable to stay.
Despite housing pressures, we continue to work closely and at pace with Local Authorities – whose support for resettlement is voluntary – and other partners, including Community Sponsorship Groups. This close collaboration enables us to source suitable accommodation and provide wrap around support for the families we resettle under ACRS Pathway 2.
The number and make up of referrals to this pathway is – and will continue to be – based on several factors, including the UK’s capacity to provide families with appropriate accommodation. The rate at which we progress referrals will be determined in partnership with the UNHCR.
The Home Office will include Afghan resettlement statistics in its quarterly Immigration Statistics publications(opens in a new tab), in due course.