What would you think about a country that routinely detains thousands of people, including children, pregnant women and the elderly, sometimes for months or years, without trial and without any authorisation from a judge?

Would it shock you to know this is what is happening in modern Britain?

The Home Affairs Committee has just produced a scathing report on the immigration detention process, describing it as showing “a general lack of humanity”.

In 2017, the Home Office held 27,819 people in detention centres.

As of June 2017, the longest time for which someone had been detained was 1,514 days.

There is no legal limit to how long someone can be held in immigration detention.

Delays in decision-making, lack of documentation and poor administration can lead to people spending months in detention, not knowing what their fate is going to be.

Some of them are children. Some are victims of people trafficking. Many have been abused.

The Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Home Affairs Committee describes the Home Office approach as “careless and cavalier – including casework failures, insufficient judicial safeguards, and a general lack of humanity in the system”.

The report recommends there be a maximum 28-day limit on how long someone can be detained, that any detention decision be reviewed by a judge within 72 hours and that more robust checks and safeguards be introduced.

The Home Office has also come under fire from the Bishop of Durham, the Right Rev Paul Butler, following the rejection of an asylum application from an Iranian Christian.

The applicant, who has not been named, was seeking asylum on the grounds that his or her conversion from Islam to Christianity would put their life at risk if they were to return to Iran.

They said they had converted because they had found Christianity to be a more peaceful religion.

The letter they received from the Home Office disputed this, claiming it was inconsistent with passages from the Bible, principally from the book of Revelation.

Bishop Butler said: “To use extracts from the book of Revelation to argue that Christianity is a violent religion is like arguing that a government report on the impact of climate change is advocating drought and flooding.”

He has a point. Yes, the Bible contains some descriptions of violence, but I seem to remember Jesus saying something about loving your neighbour and even your enemy.

The Home Office has stated the letter sent was “not in accordance” with its own policy and has said it will reconsider the case.

All this comes not so long after the news story of the treatment of immigrants of the Windrush generation, some of whom were deported for not being able to prove that they had arrived in the UK legally, often when they were very young.

We have also had the case of the Stansted 15, who were charged with endangering an airport after trying to prevent the illegal deportation of a group of people who had been given no right of appeal.

What is going on in our country? Why are we so fearful of people from other places?

And how have we allowed this fear to bring us to a place where people can be treated in inhumane ways just for the crime of having been born elsewhere and seeking a better future in the UK?

Of course, people are concerned about the impact of too much immigration on jobs, housing, education and health services, most of which are already under pressure.

Of course, there are some individuals who are not fleeing violence or persecution at home and have come to the UK for economic reasons.

But many are fleeing war zones or places where political dissent or religious difference are not tolerated.

Some have been conned by a promise of streets paved with gold and have given all they had to human traffickers to pay their way to the UK.

Some have been coerced into prostitution or criminal activity.

You may remember that even in Tiptree, there was a case of employees of a restaurant in the village living in appalling conditions, being paid in rice rather than cash and longing to be deported back home.

Many of these people are victims more than criminals.

They need compassion and appropriate support, not locking up indefinitely.

It is not as if conditions in our detention centres are excellent. A number of reports over the last few years have found evidence of overcrowding, neglect, abuse and lack of access to education.

In January, the Guardian published claims there had been 522 ambulance visits to six detention centres in 2017, up from 365 in 2014.

These callouts were often for overdoses, suicide attempts, burns and miscarriages.

A society can be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members. It is clear the UK needs to do better in its treatment of those claiming asylum or entering the country illegally.

We may feel the need, as an island nation, to place limits on how many immigrants we can accept.

We will want to discourage people from taking huge risks to enter the UK unlawfully.

But can we not show compassion to those genuinely seeking asylum? Would we not be better people if we welcomed those fleeing war, terror and violence and offered them a safe place in which to rebuild their lives?

I can’t imagine what it must be like to have to leave everything and everyone behind and flee in fear for my life, or to feel that my prospects are so desperate that I need to take my family across the sea in a leaky boast or a sealed container in hope of making a new start somewhere else.

We need a change of approach from the Home Office that recognises our common humanity and upholds human rights alongside upholding the law.

Rev Anne-Marie Renshaw

Church of England Team Rector in rural North Essex