The Chief Inspector of Prisons, Anne Owers, today released a damning report on Oakington detention centre. In it, she reports that half the detainees do not feel safe, that the use of force has increased and that staff are inadequately trained and did not know that one detainee had been there for two years. The accommodation, in particular the detainee departure unit, were in an unacceptable condition, and the detainees lacked adequate welfare support.
In response, the Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, Donna Covey, said:
“This report makes for depressing and disturbing reading. Until a few months ago, the Refugee Council had a presence at Oakington, offering much needed support and advice to detainees, and ensuring those that shouldn’t be there – including children who had been age disputed, torture victims and those with mental health problems, were released as soon as possible.
“We have grave concerns about what is happening to people now that we are not there to provide that independent support. It is especially alarming that safety is such an issue – many of these people will be extremely vulnerable. Most detainees in this country now have no access to independent welfare support.
“Detention is vastly overused as a way of managing the asylum system. It is unacceptable to lock people up simply for asking for safety in the UK, and then in a place which is clearly incapable of looking after them properly.
“And children should never be detained – it is common practice to dispute the age of an unaccompanied child who has applied for asylum, and a great proportion of these are found to be children. We should not be locking them up with adults, including ex-offenders, in the meantime.”
Oakington Immigration Reception Centre: Loss of direction and purpose leading to deterioration