Detention Centre Rules
The key document governing detention is the Detention Centre Rules (2001). This is a statutory instrument (a form of legislation), which has been passed in Parliament. The Detention Centre Rules apply to IRCs but don’t apply to short term holding facilities.
The Detention Centre Rules set that the purpose of detention is:
“……..to provide for the secure but humane accommodation of detained persons in a relaxed regime with as much freedom of movement and association as possible, consistent with maintaining a safe and secure environment, and to encourage and assist detained persons to make the most productive use of their time, whilst respecting in particular their dignity and the right to individual expression.”
These Rules also set out what detainees should have access to and the basics around healthcare, access to welfare and privileges, safety and security, etc. You can access the Rules here.
One of the most important Rules to be aware of when supporting detaines is Rule 35. This is the mechanism to make Home Office Caseworkers aware of those detainees whose health is likely to be worsened by their detention (or continued detention), those who have suicidal ideations, or who have been a victim of torture. Rule 35 reports are completed by medical practitioners. While the numbers who are ultimately released through this process is small, it is an important safeguard. You can find out more about the detailed guidance on Rule 35 reports here.
Enforcement Instructions and Guidance (EIG)
This is Home Office policy guidance to all staff dealing with immigration enforcement. The key chapter on detention is Chapter 55. It contains guidance for staff on the power to detain, the decision and authority to detain, and detention procedures. Importantly, it also contains policy guidance on who should not be detained.
Detention Operating Standards
The Operating Standards are the standards set out by the Home Office for their contractors, who manage detention centres. The contracts between the Home Office and their contractors are not publicly available, so the Operating Standards are a useful way to find out what kinds of standard provision should be available. They underpin the Detention Centre Rules and were first introduced to try to ensure consistency across detention facilities.
Unfortunately the Operating Standards are very out of date now, having not been revised since 2005. However, they are useful in describing the basic standards that should be available and cover things like access to legal services and living conditions. You can access them here.
Detention Service Orders (DSOs)
The Detention Service Orders are instructions given to Home Office and contractor staff working in detention centres. DSOs are procedural instructions for UKBA staff and private contractors working in the detention estate. There are several DSOs which are updated and revised regularly. They cover a real variety of issues, from Rule 35 and hunger striking, to accomodation standards, access to dentistry or what should happen when a complaint is made. You can find the full list and details here.