Today (18 April), the Home Secretary laid a written ministerial statement announcing the government’s intentions to place a 72-hour time limit on the detention of pregnant women.
The government intends to table the new legislation through the Immigration Bill when it returns to the House of Commons later this month.
In the statement, the Home Secretary emphasised that while pregnant women should be detained only in exceptional circumstances, it is vital that the Home Office retain the ability to hold them for short periods of time as a very last resort, such as at the UK border, in order to quickly remove them if they have no right to stay in the UK, or if they present a risk to the public.
The proposed changes will provide an additional safeguard in any case involving a pregnant woman being held at an immigration detention centre, before their removal from the country.
Detention could only be extended beyond the 72-hour limit via ministerial authorisation, and only for up to a week in total.
Home Secretary Theresa May said:
We take the welfare of detainees very seriously. That is why I commissioned Stephen Shaw to carry out an independent review of the welfare of vulnerable people in the detention estate, which was published earlier this year.
We have listened to him and to others in Parliament and beyond in shaping a humane system that will effectively end the routine detention of pregnant women.
This new approach and our wider reforms strike the right balance between safeguarding pregnant women and vulnerable people and maintaining effective and proportionate immigration control.
This new proposal is part of a series of reforms, including a new policy on adults at risk, which is at the heart of the government’s response to the Stephen Shaw review into the welfare of the vulnerable people in detention.
The written ministerial statement announcing the changes is available.