Pregnant women will no longer be detained for more than three days, the Government has announced.Any moves to imprison pregnant women for longer will need Ministerial approval.This is a welcome step forward which will end the routine detention of women, which the Refugee Council has long called for. The announcement comes following pressure for the Government to change the law through the new Immigration Bill, currently passing through Parliament, to implement an outright ban on the detention of pregnant women.
Campaigners have criticized as disappointing the home secretary’s plan to place a 72-hour limit on the detention of pregnant women held at immigration detention centres. Theresa May confirmed her intention to end the routine detention of pregnant women following a House of Lords vote last week demanding an outright ban on the practice. “The government will table an amendment to the immigration bill when it returns to parliament shortly placing a 72-hour limit on the detention of pregnant women. This will be extendable to up to a week with ministerial authorization,” the home secretary told MPs in a written statement on Monday.
“The government is clear that pregnant women should be detained only in exceptional circumstances,” she added. “This is a difficult issue – we need to balance the welfare of pregnant women with the need to maintain a robust and workable immigration system and ensure that those with no right to be here leave the UK.”
May said the 72-hour safeguard would ensure that detention for pregnant women would be used as a last resort and only for very short periods. She said that this could happen in cases in the period immediately before a managed return, to prevent illegal entry at the border or if the woman “presents a public risk”.
May said the move was part of wider changes to improve the welfare of vulnerable people held in immigration detention, including a new policy on “adults at risk”.