Holding centres "dehumanising" claims report - Refugee Council
April 5, 2006

Holding centres “dehumanising” claims report

A report was issued today (Wednesday 5 April) by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons on the short-term holding facilities at Heathrow and Calais. These facilities are used to hold asylum seekers for up to 36 hours when they arrive in the country, or when they are being removed.

The report found that, although staff were caring and respectful, the centres were not fit to hold detainees overnight or to hold children at all. Some detainees were treated as “parcels, not people”. The immigration removal process was described as “dehumanising”, and the focus was on cases, files and targets rather than on people. The report concluded: “This is neither humane nor, in the end, effective”.

The Refugee Council’s Chief Executive Maeve Sherlock says:

“These reports are deeply worrying. Asylum seekers are being treated as packages to be processed and removed rather than as very vulnerable human beings. There really should be higher standards of care and compassion in these holding centres.

A particular concern is that children are being detained in places which are totally unsuitable. Our current campaign No Place for a Child calls for a complete end to detaining children. The government could make a start by ensuring that children never end up in centres where child protection processes are not in place and where people face a lack of basics like blankets for stays up to 36 hours.”


For further information and interviews contact press office: Chris Pitt 0207 346 1213 (Switchboard: 0207 346 6700). For urgent or out of hours inquiries ring 0870 0555500 and ask for pager 865169.

Notes to Editors

1. Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons undertook unannounced inspections of the short-term holding facilities at:

  • Queen’s Building, Heathrow and Terminals 1-4, Heathrow Airport between 10-13 October 2005.
  • Calais Seaport, Coquelles Freight, and Coquelles Tourist in France between 2-3 August 2005.