Phil Woolas, Meg Hiller and various other Home Office and UKBA lackeys have made great play recently of the fact (or at least what they claim is a fact) that people in immigration detention are only there because they are about to be deported. Very occasionally they will let slip that some detainees are also held whilst their cases are being processed.
Whether people are being held in detention whilst there is still a chance of their being granted leave to remain in the UK may seem to some people an extremely trivial point, irrespective of wheyher the government is lying about it or not. However, it is an extremely important point if it is you that is being held against your will in prison-like conditions, with little or no access to habeas corpus as you have been charged with no crime. This is doubly true if you are a child or if it is your family that is banged-up.
Now, despite Woolas' attempts at obfuscation yesterday in parliament, the truth is revealed and it turns out that more than half of all children held in immigration detention are released back in to the community and do not get deported alongside their parents. According to Woolas, in an answer to a question from Claire Short, "830 children entered detention solely under Immigration Act powers between April and December 2009 and 860 children left detention held solely under Immigration Act powers during the same period." Of those "a total of 415 children were removed from the UK upon leaving detention solely under Immigration Act powers in the same period." Now, allowing for Woolas' caveats and attempts to blow smoke up Claire's fundament, this indicates that half of all children were not removed from the country under the same criteria.
This was in fact confirmed last month in an answer from Meg Hiller to a question from Diane Abbott in an adjournment debate on Yarl's Wood. "In the last quarter of 2009, 315 children entered detention. In the financial year 2008-09, 1,116 children entered detention and slightly more departed it-clearly some cases would have been in both financial years. Some 539 of those children, slightly fewer than half, were removed, and 629 were released. I should put it on record that those statistics are based on management information and are not subject to the detailed checks that apply to the publication of national statistics. They may include some double counting, as some children may have been detained, released and detained again. The average length of detention was 16 days in 2008-09, and for this year, 2009-10, it is slightly less so far. Of the children detained on 30 September 2009, 25 had been detained for seven days or fewer, five for eight to 14 days, five for 15 to 28 days and ten for 29 or more days but less than two months. None was detained for longer than that."
So now we know, detention is NOT only used when people have refused to leave the country voluntarily, to slightly adapt Meg Hiller's words from her recent letter to MPs about the Yarl's Wood hunger strike.