HC Deb 24 November 1994 vol 250 cc719-20
11. Mr. Corbyn

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many asylum seekers are in detention.

Mr. Nicholas Baker

On 18 November 1994, 654 people who had claimed asylum at some stage were detained under Immigration Acts powers.

Mr. Corbyn

Does the Minister accept that it is totally disgraceful that more than 600 people who have committed no crime nor been charged with one are in detention? They have no right of appeal to an independent appellate body or of access to the courts. Some have been detained a long time. Is the Minister not disturbed at the number of people in detention under asylum legislation powers who have undertaken hunger strikes to draw attention to their plight? Is it not time for an independent appeal body to which such cases can properly be put?

Mr. Baker

Those detained represent well under 1.5 per cent. of asylum seekers, which is a small proportion. I assure the hon. Gentleman that detention is used only as a last resort. Most people in detention have rights to appeal and to apply for bail. They have that protection, and I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's other points.

Mr. Hawkins

Does my hon. Friend agree that rather than talk about the interests of foreigners who are in most cases properly in detention, and if the Labour party is to be taken seriously in its protestations about being tough on crime, the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) should stop using every opportunity to speak out against the police? Until he and other Labour Members stop attacking the police, the hon. Gentleman should not talk about people who seek asylum.

Mr. Baker

Like my hon. Friend, I urge every Member of Parliament to give the police and other lawful authorities the support that they deserve.

Mr. George Howarth

Will the Minister confirm that it costs £800 per week to detain asylum seekers? Of the 600 current applicants, 230 are likely to be detained for between two and six months at a cost of £6,500 to £20,000. Is it not time that the Home Office took a long hard look at the procedures involved and speeded up the process, to save taxpayers money while at the same time providing some relief for detainees?

Mr. Baker

The costs cited by the hon. Gentleman represent a considerable overestimate. On the other hand, a firm detention policy, which does have a cost, is an essential part of immigration control.

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