Despite the House of Lords’ voting in favour of a complete ban on detaining pregnant women in immigration detention centres on April 12th, the UK’s Home Secretary, Theresa May, has announced a new plan to implement a 72-hour restriction on detaining pregnant women. With ministerial approval, pregnant women can be detained even longer, however in no circumstance can pregnant women be detained for more than one week.
This decision, which comes less than a week after the Lords' vote, has left many outraged. Anna Musgrave, Refugee Council Advocate, responded to May’s plan saying, "It's disappointing that the Government has chosen to defy the Lords, defy public opinion and defy common sense by choosing to continue imprisoning pregnant women…there's absolutely no excuse for compromising the health and well-being of a mother and her baby."
May’s decision came after independently commissioned research carried out earlier in 2016 by Stephen Shaw found that no correlation exists between the number of migrants detained and the number of migrants lawfully deported. May explained her descision to the Guardian and stated that, “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.” Detaining pregnant women is intended to be relevant in situations at the border, in which some women have no right to remain in the UK, and also in circumstances in which the women are a potential public risk. The House of Commons will vote on May’s proposal later in April.
An additional “adults at risk” policy that is currently being developed to severely restrict or ban detention time periods for other vulnerable migrant populations. The details of this policy proposition will be released at a future date.