A new review into the welfare of people locked up inside Britain’s shadowy immigration detention estate has called for the Government to detain fewer people, ‘boldly and without delay’ for ‘both for reasons of welfare and to deliver better use of public money’.
The review was ordered by Home Secretary Theresa May in February 2015 following a series of shocking undercover investigations into detention centres by Channel 4 News.
The six month review, headed by former prisons and probation ombudsman Stephen Shaw, aimed to look at the welfare of vulnerable people within detention.
The Home Secretary tried to block Shaw from reviewing the decision to detain people and from entering the debate about whether or not a time limit should be placed on how long people could be detained, however Shaw felt these issues were intrinsically linked to detainees’ welfare so felt compelled to give them some attention.
In his report, Shaw makes a whopping 64 recommendations for reform; including banning the detention of pregnant women and suggesting there should be a ‘presumption against detention’ of sexual violence victims, victims of FGM, people with learning difficulties, those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and transgender people.
In its response, the Government has accepted that there should be a presumption against detention for ‘adults at risk’ but has refused to implement an outright ban.
Shaw also calls for the closure of Cedars, one of the few remaining detention centres which continues to lock up children, despite a pledge by the Government in 2010 to end the detention of children for immigration purposes.
The review recommends the Government immediately scrapping the notorious rule 35 mechanism – which is supposed to identify victims of torture within detention so they can be released – as Shaw says it is not working.
The report also calls for safeguards to be put in place to safeguard against ‘excessive length of detention’. Britain is currently the only country in Europe without a limit on the length of time someone can be detained for immigration purposes. The Chief Inspector of Prisons, MPs, the Refugee Council and a range of other groups have all called for a 28 day time limit to be adopted to prevent people languishing behind bars for years on end.
Responding to the report, Refugee Council Head of Advocacy Dr. Lisa Doyle said: “This review shines a welcome spotlight on the hidden, abhorrent and often unlawful treatment of vulnerable people within Britain’s shadowy immigration estate.
“The fact that Britain quietly continues to imprison rape victims, children and torture survivors without a time limit is completely unacceptable.
“The 64 recommendations for substantial change should lead the Government to acknowledge that wholesale reform is needed. Quite simply, Britain detains far too many people for far too long and such unnecessary imprisonment ruins lives, wastes money and is an affront to human dignity and justice.”
The review is the latest in a long line of damning reports into Britain’s immigration detention facilities, with an Inquiry led by a cross-party group of MPs last year highlighting multiple failings of the system which led MPs to conclude that Britain detains far too many people for far too long.
The Chief Inspector of Prisons also periodically uncovers worrying and often unlawful practices within detention facilities, and last year branded the notorious Yarl’s Wood centre as a ‘place of national concern’.