Five more facts on immigration detention centres in England & Wales from the Chief Inspector

Latest HMIP report reveals torture victims are kept locked up indefinitely

A family outside a US detention centre, similar to UK centres.  Source: Seattle Globalist, Flickr

A family outside the US’s Northwest Detention Centre, similar in appearance to the UK’s centres.
Source: Seattle Globalist, Flickr

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British detention centres lock children and torture victims in prison-like conditions and denied access to crucial services according to Nick Hardwick, the Chief Inspector of Prisons.

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Torture victims kept locked up

People certified by UK doctors as torture victims are being kept locked up indefinitely in immigration detention centres by caseworkers despite this breaking UK Home Office policy, according to the latest Chief Inspector’s report on prisons and detention centres.

According to the Chief Inspector:

“Some caseworker responses to reports were cynical and dismissive, while others did not comply with Home Office policy.”

In at least two instances, caseworkers had kept detainees locked up despite doctors’ findings that they may be torture victims. Rule 35 of the Detention Centre Rules states that people should be released from detention if there is evidence that they have been tortured.

Here are the four other key points from the report.

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Prison-like conditions

With its high security fencing topped with razor wire, Dover detention centre inappropriately “looked and felt like a prison,” wrote the Chief Inspector, who also criticised the “punitive rewards system” currently in operation.

Detainees are also reportedly routinely handcuffed during escorts to external appointments, including dentists and opticians appointments, “regardless of the risk they presented”.

An 84-year-old Canadian and Alzheimer’s patient called Alois Dvorzac died handcuffed to his hospital bed in UK immigration detention custody in January 2014.

Channel 4 news segment on Canadian detainee Alois Dvorzac.

Channel 4 news segment on Canadian detainee Alois Dvorzac.

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Inadequate child mental health care

Although the report is generally positive about provision for families and children at Cedars (the only detention centre which houses minors), it raises concerns that children do not receive adequate mental health care to address the “disturbing” impact detention is likely to have.

Families taken into detention are often removed from their homes by arrest teams wearing full body armour, which is especially alarming for children. Particular disruption was experienced by children of families who were detained more than once.

2011 march by protesters in Australia, where children are also detained.  Source: Takver, Flickr

2011 march by protesters in Australia, where children are also confined in immigration detention.
Source: Takver, Flickr

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Detainees denied access to Skype and social media

The report’s authors note that detainees they visited were banned from accessing Skype and social media. They stated that this was:

“a disproportionate restriction for a detainee population, and hindered their ability to maintain contact with family and friends”

Set up in an effort to work around these restrictions, the blog Detained Voices and its companion twitter account publish first hand accounts from detainees currently locked up in the centres. Most of the blog posts or tweets are dictated over the telephone, transcribed verbatim and then posted online by friends and supporters.

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Disproportionate security measures

On “overseas escorts” to remove detainees from the country, the Chief Inspector noted that disproportionate security measures meant that:

“Detainees were still not permitted to close the door fully when using the toilet.”

One 18-year-old woman who was brought onto a coach of men to use the toilet was told that her escort would have to keep a foot wedged in the door while she used it. The woman opted not to use the facilities.

We will have more on detention centres in the coming weeks.



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