UK government figures show that over 1,800 people in Britain will spend the Christmas holiday incarcerated in immigration detention centers, prompting calls to end the “cruel and callous” policy.
There are currently 1,826 migrants being held in detention centers. Of these, 1,152 are people seeking asylum in the UK, according to the latest official statistics.
The vast majority of the those people, or 1,506, in detention are being held in Home Office immigration removal centers, while 300 are being detained in prison.
The statistics show that 27 people have been kept in detention for more than a year, and three people for more than two years.
The government has come under fire over its treatment of asylum seekers and other immigrants at detention centers, particularly since the Windrush scandal.
Last year, female detainees at Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Center in Bedfordshire launched a hunger strike to protest their conditions.
Last month, UK’s Supreme Court ruled that the government’s detention of many asylum seekers was illegal, leading to a series of compensation claims against the Home Office that could reach millions of pounds.
Keeping people in immigration detention centers costs British taxpayer 89 million pounds a year, and last year the Home Office was forced to pay 8.2 million pounds in compensation for 312 cases of unlawful detention.
The new finding prompted the Liberal Democrats to brand the ruling Conservative government “cruel and callous” and call for a 28-day limit to be imposed on the length of time people can be held in immigration detention centers.
“If we needed any reminder of the cruel and callous nature of the Conservatives, then this is it. Almost two thousand people will spend Christmas separated from their loved ones, as they remain indefinitely imprisoned in a detention center,” said Christine Jardine, the party’s home affairs spokesperson.
“Locking vulnerable people up with no idea of when they will be released is yet another part of the Conservative government’s toxic and hostile approach to immigration. It is time the Tories gained some humanity and stopped wasting tax payers money on ensuring people spend their Christmas languishing in cells,” she added.