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Ireland and the United Kingdom: Absence of Safeguards?

  • Izabella Majcher
  • Michael Flynn
  • Mariette Grange
Chapter
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Part of the European Studies of Population book series (ESPO, volume 22)

Abstract

Ireland and the United Kingdom, which remained a part of the European Union (EU) at the time of this writing, are the only two EU countries that are not parties to the Returns Directive. The consequences of this can be observed in both countries’ immigration detention policies and practices, though with important distinctions between the two. In fact, apart from their shared stated objective of not placing children in immigration detention—which only Ireland has lived up to—and their widespread use of police stations and prisons, the two immigration detention systems exhibit numerous and stark differences. Important reasons for these differences are size and scale. The UK is a much larger country and receives far more migrants and asylum seekers, a result of both its legacy as a colonial power and its status today as a key destination country. Whereas Ireland typically places less than 400 people in detention annually, the UK number often surpasses 30,000. Although the UK makes extensive use of prisons for immigration purposes, Ireland stands alone in the EU as the only country—as of 2019—to exclusively use prisons because it had yet to establish a dedicated long-term immigration detention centre, a fact that human rights monitoring bodies like the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture have ceaselessly pointed out. However, because Ireland and the UK are not bound to the Returns Directive, which stipulates that countries should use separate facilities for immigration detention, the practice of using prisons does not face the same legal challenges that it has elsewhere in the EU, most notably in Germany, which had to stop this practice after rulings by the Court of Justice of the European Union. The UK, on the other hand, is the only country in the EU that has effectively privatised its entire immigration detention estate. (Only Australia and the United States have similarly privatized detention systems.) The two countries are also not subject to the 18-month detention limit provided in the Returns Directive. Ireland provides for immigration detention for only up to 56 days, placing it amongst the handful of EU countries that have not adopted an 18-month limit. The UK, however, is the only EU country that does not have a time limit, which has been condemned by international human rights monitoring bodies.

Keywords

Immigration detention EU migration and asylum policies Deportation and removal Asylum seekers Arbitrary detention 

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Izabella Majcher
    • 1
  • Michael Flynn
    • 1
  • Mariette Grange
    • 1
  1. 1.Global Detention ProjectGenevaSwitzerland

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