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Migrant groups push for detainee release after 4,000 prisoners given early discharge

CAMPAIGNERS questioned why immigration detainees are not being released from centres today following the announcement that low-risk prisoners are being given an early release.

On Saturday the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) announced that up to 4,000 prisoners with sentences of two months or less will be let out on temporary licence in an effort to control the spread of Covid-19 behind bars. 

There have been 90 confirmed cases across Britain’s jails, and three inmates and two officers have already died from the virus.

The aim of the release is to prevent thousands of inmates, many of whom share cells, from catching the virus.

Today prison officers’ union POA said it supported the MoJ’s decision but added that releases must be done “quickly and effectively.” 

Migrant rights groups have argued that the same consideration must be given to immigration detainees. 

Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID), a group that represents people in detention centres, told the Morning Star that the release of detainees should be “prioritised.”

“If people are to be released from prisons then immigration detainees – many of whom are held in prisons – should be prioritised,” BID researcher Rudy Schulkind said.

“None are currently serving prison sentences and their detention is solely for the convenience of the Home Secretary, to enable enforced removal from the UK. 

“It is completely unjustifiable to continue to hold people where removal is not possible.”

There are still around 750 people being held in Immigration Removal Centres (IRC) — despite the detainees in four of them showing symptoms of Covid-19. 

In response to the MoJ’s announcement on Saturday, Medical Justice UK said: “Now release immigration detainees. None are serving a criminal sentence and few can be deported during the global lockdown, making their indefinite detention in such harmful conditions incomprehensible, indefensible and just plain cruel.”

A day before the move was announced Labour MP Diane Abbott told the Home Secretary that there is “no justification” for continued detention.

In a letter to Priti Patel she said: “It seems likely that your government will conduct an early release scheme for non-violent prisoners to alleviate the looming health crisis in prisons. 

“The detainees in the immigration removal centres have committed no crime and must surely be entitled to the same consideration.” 

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is not among the inmates eligible for temporary release. 

Today marks 10 years since he published Collateral Murder — the video showing classified footage of US military personnel indiscriminately killing people, including two Reuters journalists. 

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