Monitoring and Inspecting Detention: Statutory Bodies

Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs) and Short term holding facilities, as well as prisons, are governed by a range of legislation and policies.

Various bodies also inspect, monitor and report on immigration detention and issues concerning detention, deportation and removal. This includes statutory bodies such as Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) and the Independent Monitoring Boards (IMBs).

The Independent Chief Inspector of the UKBA (John Vine) has a statutory role in monitoring the activities of the UKBA.

In addition, the Home Affairs Committee has a remit to monitor the activities of the Home Office, and this includes the UKBA.

AVID works to engage with these bodies to ensure the concerns of our visitors and the detainees they visit are put forward collectively. You can find more information, and the latest reports from each, collated below.


House of Commons: Home Affairs Committee

The Home Affairs Committee is appointed by the House of Commons to monitor and examine the administration and actions of the Home Office and associated bodies. The results of such inquiries are then published as reports.

Rules Governing Enforced Removals from the UK

15 months on from the death of Jimmy Mubenga, a report by the MPs Commons Home Affairs Committee has said that private security firms are still using inappropriate force and racist language during forced removals from the UK.

The report also found: 

  • Inappropriate use of physical restraint, including some techniques that could be dangerous.
  • Excessive numbers of security guards for some deportations. MPs also commented that the relationship between the agency and its contractors had 'become too cosy'. You can read the report here.


Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons

HMIP is an independent inspectorate overseen by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons. Its remit is to scrutinise conditions within prisons and other detention centres, and monitor the treatment of detainees within such establishments. This includes immigration removal centres, short term holding centres, and escorting services. It does this through both announced and unannounced inspections, which then form the basis of detailed reports produced usually around four months after each inspection. HMIP inspects against a set of expectations (available to download here), which are a framework to assess whether the facility provides a ‘healthy environment’ for detainees. IRCs are expected to provide a secure, relaxed and humane environment for detainees, and to ensure that each detainee is able to undertake purposeful activity and receives appropriate levels of welfare support. Where such conditions are not seen to be met, recommendations are made to the UK Border Agency for improvement. .

AVID member visitors groups are given the opportunity to input into the inspections process by feeding in to the inspections whether announced or unannounced. This is an important mechanism to ensure the views of visitors groups and the detainees they visit are part of the inspection process.

UKBA responds to HMIP in their Service Improvement Plans which outline the response to each recommendation made by HMIP. These are distributed to stakeholders. You can find out more about HMIP by visiting their website.

Here we have uploaded the most recent HMIP reports for each Immigration Removal Centre - as well as the most recent Annual Report, which provides an overview of conditions across the entire detention estate.



Detainees Under Escort

The HMIP now undertakes inspections of escorted overseas removals by the UKBA. The treatment and conditions of detainees on these flights are monitored, and, as with the IRC reports, recommendations for improvement are made. 

IMB Reports

Independent Monitoring Boards monitor the day to day life of both prisons and IRCs, and ensure that proper standards of care and decency are maintained. IMBs are made up of volunteers from the local community, but are accountable to the Secretary of State. Each IRC has its own IMB, with unrestricted access to the centre. They have the right to raise concerns and ask questions and to enter the centre at any time. IMBs are independent monitors and their role is very different to visitors groups, but IMBs are able to help with issues that visitors come across relating to conditions and standards in the IRCs.  Each IMB visits the centre every week, and has a statutory obligation to visit all detainees in segregation. They also meet with centre management, who have a duty to inform the IMB of certain events such as use of control and restraint, segregation, and major incidents. The IMB has no power to intervene but can observe, ask questions and report.

You can find out more about IMBs here.

Each IMB produces an annual report on the IRC they monitor, which we have collated below.Independent Monitoring Boards monitor the day to day life of both prisons and IRCSs, and ensure that proper standards of care and decency are maintained. IMBs are able to help with issues that visitors come across relating to conditions and standards in the IRCs.  Each IMB has a statutory obligation to visit all detainees in segregation, visiting the centre at least once a week. Each IMB produces an annual report on the IRC they monitor, which we have collated below.

IMB Annual Report: 2011

‘Behind Closed Doors’ is the annual report for 2011 of the National Council of IMBs. It highlights a new role for the IMBs in the last year, monitoring charter flights. To date, flights to Nigeria and Kabul were monitored by the IMB, covering the whole journey from boarding of coaches to disembarkation at destination. The report also notes that the main airport for charter flights is now Stansted and the National Council has recognized the need for a new IMB at Stansted. There is no IMB at Larne STHF; instead, the facility is monitored by the Lay Custody Visitors. This will be reviewed in 2012. Among other issues highlighted by the IMBs throughout the year, mention is given to length of detention and mental health problems of detainees.

IMB Issues of Concern: June 2012

The Issues of Concern report summarises major issues raised in the individual annual reports of each individual Independent Monitoring Board. The report expresses serious concerns over the lack of provision for health care, in particular relating to the mental health of detainees.


Independent Chief Inspector of the UKBA (ICIUKBA)

In 2008, the UK Borders Act 2007 came into force, providing the statutory framework for an Independent Chief Inspector monitoring the work of the UKBA. Their role is to assess the 'efficiency and effectiveness' of the UKBA, reporting to the Home Secretary. The inspection plan is set at the beginning of each year. It is not in their remit to consider individual cases, but they do consider decision making, treatment of claimants and applicants, consistency of approach, performance, and enforcement powers, amongst other things. Their website for this office is available here.

National Preventive Mechanism


The National Preventive Mechanism is a body set up through the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT), in order to safeguard against instances of human rights abuse in places of detention. The UKs NPM is made up of 18 inspecting bodies who visit immigration detention centres, prisons, children’s secure accommodation and mental health institutions in order to monitor conditions and treatment of detainees and make recommendations based on their findings. The NPM is coordinated by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, and each year it publishes a report of its activities. The two latest annual NMP reports can be read below: