5 things we learned from today’s watchdog report into immigration detention

April 16, 2019

Another day, another damning report into immigration detention. HM Chief Inspector of Prisons has released a report into Colnbrook detention centre. It made for painfully familiar reading.

Self-harm has risen threefold. People are held in prison-like conditions unsuitable for the purpose of immigration detention. People are held for unacceptable lengths of time. 54% of improvements recommended in 2016 have still not been fully met, even those as simple as keeping cells in good repair.

This is now the third scathing report published in recent months, the first two coming from the Home Affairs Select Committee and the Joint Committee on Human Rights. All three support calls for a 28-day time limit on immigration detention, which is being considered by Parliament right now.

Here’s what we learned from today’s report:

1. Self-harm has risen threefold

There was a very significant increase in self-harm incidents at Colnbrook – a threefold increase, despite a drop in the overall number of people held there. This follows reports of a crisis of harm inside UK immigration detention centres, with detainees being hospitalised on an almost daily basis.

“In one case, a prolific and very serious self-harmer experiencing voices telling him to kill himself was not considered to present the highest level of risk.” [1]

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2. People held in unsuitable prison-like conditions

This is one of the most fundamental problems identified – that migrants are held in conditions that are not suitable. Immigration detention is not supposed to be punishing – it is for administrative purposes only. Yet conditions are often more harsh and restrictive than prisons. 47% of detainees surveyed for this latest report said they felt unsafe in the centre.

“…the centre is largely indistinguishable from a prison, and prisons are rarely suitable environments for immigration detainees held under administrative as opposed to judicial powers. It was notable that some of the most vociferous critics of the prison-like feel of the centre were the staff who worked there” [2]

3. Improvements recommended in 2016 still not achieved

A staggering 54% of the necessary improvements recommended in 2016 following the last inspection of Colnbrook have still not been fully met.

Examples of recommendations not yet achieved range from the seemingly simple yet vitally important (keeping cells in a good state of repair) to the absolutely fundamental (“a strict time limit on the length of detention and caseworkers should act with diligence and expedition”).

4. Vulnerable people not protected

Vulnerable people, including survivors of human trafficking or torture, are not being protected. The detention centre and the Home Office lists of vulnerable people who were supposed to be supported did not match up. And only 16% were released because of a (Rule 35) report detailing vulnerability, the vast majority of which involved torture.

“Rule 35 reports were not always submitted when necessary, for example where a detainee was suspected of having suicidal intentions … In nearly all cases in our sample, detention was maintained despite evidence of torture being accepted.” [3]

5. The need for a time limit on detention

In this report the HM Chief Inspector of Prisons once again called for a strict time limit on immigration detention. This echoes recent calls from the Home Affairs Select Committee and Join Committee on Human Rights for a 28-day time limit.

“…the Home Office had been trying to remove a detainee for more than 10 years since serving a deportation order in 2008. This was his third time in immigration detention and he had been held for a total of more than 10 months … A psychologist had reported a ‘significant deterioration in his mental state’ and an ‘increased risk of harm to self.’” [4]

URGENT: write to your MP

Urgent – 25,000 people held every year in UK immigration detention centres with no time limit. MPs are coming together to end this ‘national disgrace’ – find out if your MP is supporting.

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Notes

[1] Report on an unannounced inspection of Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre, by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, 16 April 2019, P. 22

[2] Report on an unannounced inspection of Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre, by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, 16 April 2019, P. 5

[3] Report on an unannounced inspection of Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre, by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, 16 April 2019, P. 20

[4] Report on an unannounced inspection of Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre, by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, 16 April 2019, P. 28-29

 

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