Immigration Bail and Home Office shenanigans

Christine Oliver, the Ex-Detainee Project Manager at Samphire writes about her latest bail hearing

© DIBP and made available through Creative Commons
© DIBP and made available through Creative Commons

I represented a detainee at his bail hearing the other week. It’s been a while since I’ve done an application for bail and the shenanigans of the Home Office in their efforts to keep people in detention at a cost of at least £120 per day never cease to amaze me.

Home Office errors

The Home Office written reasons for why this man (from a country with a dire human rights record and with a British wife and child) should be detained included several serious errors and omissions:

  • They said he was convicted of a crime which did not even relate to him. The chronology of his immigration history proved he could not possibly have committed or been convicted of this crime. A copy/paste error or something more sinister?
  • They described a crime which made him a ‘risk to the public’. In fact, he filled up his wife’s car with petrol and she’d forgotten her purse. They paid for the petrol later and had a receipt to prove it…
  • The Home Office also neglected to mention that he was waiting for the decision of a an immigration application made five years earlier. The effect of this omission was to make it seem as though the man had been ‘on the run’ for a number of years. Utter nonsense!

Luckier than most detainees

Our man had a legal representative to point out these errors, and I had time to prepare the case fully and be conversant with the facts before the hearing. This is not the situation for many bail applicants.

Many are unrepresented, may not have good English and face difficulties with a hearing by video-link – all of which deserves its own blog post. Legal representatives acting under legal aid do not have the luxury of spending the best part of 3 days preparing for bail as I did (thanks to our funding from London Legal Support Trust). Even then, it’s not a sure thing.

Thankfully, we got ‘a nice judge on a good day’ and the man was released – to the tremendous joy and relief of his wife. We also got a pleasant Home Office representative who informally acknowledged that detention was not reasonable but his hands were tied – he is told to oppose bail in all instances. The judge also made some cutting remarks about the omissions and the incorrect criminal history on the part of the Home Office being ‘undesirable’.

Conflicting roles

It will not come as a surprise to anyone working in immigration and asylum that this is the reality in this area of work. Every day the total insanity of having the government body responsible for the highly politicised job of ‘protecting our borders’ also responsible for deciding whether detention is reasonable and necessary, as well as deciding whether migrants seeking protection from persecution or human rights abuses in their home countries are refugees, is blatantly apparent.

We accept that this is just how it is, so we do our best to redress the balance. The fact of the matter is that there is an inherent conflict of interest between the different functions of the Home Office that makes it biased, and thus violates of the principles of natural justice.

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