A catalogue of failures: watchdog’s review of immigration detention - Refugee Council
October 22, 2014

A catalogue of failures: watchdog’s review of immigration detention

The Prison’s watchdog has slammed Britain’s immigration removal centres for failing to protect vulnerable detainees.

In his shocking annual report, the Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick reviews his department’s inspections into immigration removal centres and short term holding facilities across the country.

The 2013-2014 report documents inspectors uncovering cases of pregnant women being detained unnecessarily, torture survivors being locked up in direct defiance of Home Office policy, reports of sexual abuse at Yarl’s Wood and evidence of children being held for too long and without proper safeguarding procedures in place.

Inspectors also singled out Harmondsworth for failing to keep detainees safe and highlighting a case where ‘a sense of humanity had been lost in the use of handcuffing on detainees who were dying’.

The treatment of vulnerable women detailed in the report is particularly alarming. Despite inspectors noting that many female detainees had experienced abuse or trauma they uncovered evidence of women being inappropriately held alongside men, male guards entering women’s rooms without knocking and a lack of support for a pregnant woman who had to be hospitalised due to complications.

Elsewhere, inspectors criticised staff’s responses to medical reports of torture as cynical and dismissive. They also highlighted the unnecessary use of handcuffs on detainees and lack of staff awareness of mechanisms to identify and support victims of trafficking.

Inspectors accompanying staff on a removal flight also witnessed staff referring to those in their care by their number, and not by name.

Refugee Council Head of Advocacy Lisa Doyle said:

This report shines a spotlight on the shameful treatment of some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

It’s utterly abhorrent to hear of survivors of abuse and torture, pregnant women and children being put at further risk by the Government; the very people who should be protecting them.

The Government must accept the only humane conclusion possible to draw from this report; the detention of asylum seekers for administrative convenience must end now. It ruins lives, wastes money and is an affront to human dignity and justice.