Sarah speaking about detention of illegal immigrants from third countries

June 17, 2008 12:30 PM
By Sarah Ludford in European Parliament

Madam President, I have no hesitation in voting for this directive, not because it is ideal, but because it raises standards in some Member States. And indeed, an assessment of the value of this directive comes, perversely, from the very fact that the UK is not opting into it. It does not want to be constrained by the higher standards in the directive, not least the time limits and the conditions on detention, such as the separation of immigration detainees from convicted criminals, which does not always happen in the UK at present, and the fact that coercive measures must be proportional and respect fundamental rights and the dignity of the individual, all valuable elements in this text.

There has been a lot of disinformation and I am sorry that someone wrongly briefed the President of Bolivia who wrote in the British newspaper The Guardian yesterday. Eighteen months is not the standard detention time. The directive says it should not exceed six months except where, in spite of all reasonable efforts by Member States, the removal operation is likely to last longer due to a lack of cooperation by the person concerned or delays in getting documentation from a third country.

I think that the provisions on taking account of the best interests of the child, on family life, on the state of health, on the principle of non-refoulement and on special provisions for unaccompanied minors are particularly valuable and will help migrants under threat of removal. The provisions on reasons for detention and appeals and judicial review are crucial. But while intending to support this imperfect but necessary directive in order to raise standards, I must stress that it is only one part of the picture. We must have a fair refugee acceptance system and a proper legal immigration policy.