Immigration detainees banned from Facebook and Twitter

Social media grouped with porn and gambling 

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Credit: M3Li55@/Flickr

 

The Home Office has come under fire from campaigners for banning social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter in its immigration detention centres.

Last week the government issued its first ever Detention Service Order (DSO) on internet access for immigration detainees, which proscribes the use of all social networking sites, chat rooms and instant messaging services across its immigration detention estate.

Some commentators have pointed out that the DSO also mandates access to approved web services, including charity and NGO websites, and personal email accounts. Most, however, have focused on the blanket ban on social networks and messaging services, which will make it harder for detained people to contact their friends and family.

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Shaw Ignored?

Critics of the DSO argue that it goes against the recommendations of the Shaw Review, a 300-page government-commissioned report on UK immigration detention conducted last year by former Prisons and Probation Ombudsman Stephen Shaw. The review recommended wider internet access for detainees and access to Skype.

In his review, Shaw states: “I fully appreciate the need for appropriate security measures, but I do not believe there is any rational case for continuing the blanket ban on Skype and Facebook and like services”, and adds that when he visited the centres, “there was no security objection on the part of centre operators to Skype or social networking services,  assuming local risk assessments remained in place.” He recommended:

“The internet access policy should be reviewed with a view to increasing access to sites that enable detainees to pursue and support their immigration claim, to prepare for their return home, and which enable them to maximise contact with their families. This should include access to Skype and to social media sites like Facebook.”

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“Prohibited Lifestyle”

Social networking sites and instant messaging services are forbidden as “Prohibited lifestyle categories”, along with pornography, dating and gambling sites.

By contrast, sites relating to “terrorism, weapons & explosives, racist material, or crime” are grouped together under “Prohibited harm related categories”.

In response to request for comment on the DSO , the Home Office issued the generic statement:

“We do not allow detainees access to social media platforms due to safety and security concerns”

At the time of publication The Home Office has not provided further comment on what it means by the phrase “prohibited lifestyle”, or what safety and security concerns it is referring to.



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