Refugee Council response to inquiry into disturbances at Harmondsworth/ Campsfield detention centres - Refugee Council
July 26, 2007

Refugee Council response to inquiry into disturbances at Harmondsworth/ Campsfield detention centres

In response to the publication of the report of the inquiry into the disturbances at Harmondsworth and Campsfield detention centres, Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:

“The report’s conclusions overwhelmingly indicate fundamental flaws in the management and use of the centres. Detaining people for indefinite periods, in poor conditions and with limited access to information about what will happen to them, has been clearly shown by this inquiry to lead to immense frustration that can trigger incidents of this kind. It does not support the claim that an increased effectiveness in removing people had any bearing on the causes of the disturbances.

“The report highlights a regrettable failure of both detention centres to do even simple things like answer phone calls or return faxes. Poor communication between staff and caseworkers means cases were not being sorted out, and basic problems were not being addressed, leaving detainees deeply frustrated. And it is clear that the impact of holding large numbers of foreign prisoners was seriously underestimated, and that staff failed to respond adequately to the considerable challenge this posed.

“Detention is not is an appropriate way to deal with people who are seeking, or who have sought, asylum in the UK. These are people who have committed no crime, and who are often extremely vulnerable, yet who have been locked up in circumstances where there is little access to information, who don’t know how long they will be imprisoned, and held in centres that are poorly run and badly managed. This in turn has an impact on their mental health and contributes to frustrations in the centres. In addition they are being held alongside offenders recently released from prison who have, as the report states, ‘nothing to lose’.

“We urge the government now to re-think its attitude towards detaining asylum seekers who have committed no crime. There are alternatives to the use of detention, now is the time for the government to start using them.”