More key findings from the Shaw Review into UK immigration detentionPosted: January 28, 2016
Sexual abuse, low pay and poor transportation
The “Shaw Review” into the treatment of vulnerable people in UK immigration detention was published this month. Conducted by former Prisons and Probation Ombudsman Steven Shaw, the review provides sweeping and in-depth coverage of the system.
1. People paid £1 an hour to work
The UK has a statutory minimum wage of £6.50 per hour. However, the Asylum, Immigration and Nationality Act 2006 exempts detainees in Immigration Removal Centres from being paid the national minimum wage for their work. Inmates may receive £1 an hour rising to £1.25 an hour for “special projects”.
Mr. Shaw notes that one Detention Service Order (instructions issues by the Home Office outlining procedures to be followed by staff) indicates that there should be a link between detainees’ compliance with immigration processes and their being allowed to undertake paid work. He warns:
“This effectively turns paid work into a privilege, redolent of the prison system. No such link is in the Detention Centre Rules. It would be sensible for the Home Office to review DSO 01/2013 to ensure there are no unnecessary limitations on those eligible to undertake paid work.”
2. No law against sexual abuse of power by staff
While sexual relationships between staff and detainees are taboo, there is currently no law against it – it goes unmentioned in the Sexual Offences Act 2003. There has been more than one report of sexual relationships between male staff and women detained in Yarl’s Wood.
Several case studies of sexual abuse by staff were reported to Mr. Shaw, along with “accusations that investigations had been inadequate and biased, and that abuse was/is more widespread than reported.”
A submission to the review by the law firm Birnberg Pierce & Partners noted “the possibility of consenting to sexual contact in a detention environment is highly questionable.”
Mr. Shaw recommends that sexual relationships between staff and immigration detainees be included as an offence within the Act:
“For staff to engage in sexual activity with those to whom they owe a duty of care should not just be a matter for their employer. I am told by the Home Office that the number of corroborated cases is small, but even one is too many. It is an abuse of power on which the law should speak.”
3. Detainees transferred at night for commercial convenience
A survey of data collected by the Home Office’s DEPMU (Detainee Escorting and Population Management Unit) showed that eight per cent of detainee transfers in the space of an average week took place at night. The report notes that “this is eight per cent of a large number, and represents a lot of people”, and goes on to add:
“In these cases, there had been no rationale for making the moves at night other than that it was convenient for Tascor to do so. From a welfare perspective, it is common decency to move people only in those hours when they are more naturally alert and aware of what is happening to them.”
Mr. Shaw recommends that IRCS “cease to accept transfers on a 24/7 basis [and that] contractors should introduce hours of closure except in emergencies. This would mirror Prison Service practice.”
4. Removal flights deliberately over-booked
Charter flights for the removal of detainees from the country are frequently over-booked, according to the report. As last-minute appeals sometimes result in deportees being taken off their flight, it is routine practice to overbook places to ensure the flight is as full as possible. The review notes: “There are clear welfare implications of such over-booking.”
The Home Office argues that the number of its “reserve” passengers is kept to a minimum, and it has reduced the number of “reserves” who are taken all the way to an airport before being sent back due to lack of space.
Mr. Shaw concludes:
“It is of course encouraging to see any reduction in the number of people who are moved unnecessarily to and from a charter flight, but this must still be little comfort for the detainees who are moved and unsettled by the process. I find the whole practice to be unsavoury and inconsistent with a welfare-centred approach.”
The report recommends that the practice of over-booking charter flights be stopped.