New Training opportunity for experienced visitors: McKenzie Friends
We are running a training course for those interested in supporting immigration detainees as a friend in court. You can find out more here or contact the office for a registration form. Please note this training is open to those who already have experience of supporting detainees. The training will take place in central London on Saturday 18th May 2013.
News Updates: October 2012
HMIP report finds over-representation of foreign national women prisoners on remand
HMIP has released a thematic review of prisoners on remand. It found foreign nationals were over-represented, especially in the women's estate. 16% of all women in prison said they were foreign nationals compared to 12% of men in prison. Although foreign national prisoners were 16% of the total women’s population, they made up over a quarter (27%) of unconvicted women remanded into custody. You can view the full report here.
News Updates: September 2012
Asylum Aid 'Missed Out' campaign
Asylum Aid has launched the 'Missed Out' campaign. Asylum Aid is calling for a fair and gender-sensitive system, so that asylum-seeking women have the same rights as everyone else. The government is reporting on its Violence against Women and Girls strategy in November. You can write to your MP and ask them to raise your concerns with the Home Secretary here, or through the Refugee Council website: http://bit.ly/PF4NhX
Tamils are to be deported to Sri Lanka despite evidence
Two chartered flights are set to deport Sri Lankan Tamils despite growing evidence that many of them may be tortured on return. The Home Office says that it only deports who it believes face no risk of torture, but Freedom from Torture and Human Rights Watch have argued that the government has underestimated the implications for Tamils being returned, who are routinely arrested, questioned and often tortured about links to the LTTE. Freedom from Torture has conducted a through investigation of 24 individuals who were tortured after returning to Sri Lanka, which including evidence they were subject to a range of torture methods including beatings with plastic pipes, whipping with cables, partial asphyxiation and cigarette burns. Freedom for Torture is calling for a suspension of forcible returns. You can read the full Guardian article here.
AVID, BID and 50 signatories call on Damian Green MP to respond to three human rights breaches in detention, in relation to mental health:
AVID and our partners Bail for Immigration Detainees, along with 50 signatories from the voluntary, legal and mental health sectors, wrote to Damian Green MP in June to express our concerns at the lack of response to the three recent breaches of human rights in UK detention. In the three cases, all of which involved the detention of men who were seriously mentally ill, the court found that the UKBA had detained these men unlawfully, and that their treatment breached Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment). To date the UKBA has not set out how it intends to improve the treatment of mentally unwell detainees in response to these serious findings.
Detention Forum: Letter to the ICIUKBA regarding the Detained Fast Track procedure (12/04/2012)
AVID is one of 33 signatories to the Detention Forum’s latest joint action, a letter to the Independent Chief Inspector of the UKBA. The letter raises concerns about the Detained Fast Track procedure. Concerns were raised regarding the initial screening interviews. The inability for applicants to access legal aid or advice from a qualified person makes applicants vulnerable. The letter also cautions the chief inspector against UKBA statements on the apparent low success rate the appeal allowed under DFT procedures, drawing attention to the way in which the DFT process itself has a severe negative impact on the ability of the asylum-seeker to present their claim. The authors ask that the Independent Chief Inspectorate reports are circulated in draft to all concerned parties in advance of final publication, rather than only to the UKBA. You can read full the letter here.
HMIP Report: Unannounced full follow up inspection of Harmondsworth IRC (published April 2012)
This full, unannounced follow-up inspection follows the previous inspection of the facility in January 2010. Though some positives have been noted during 'a time of considerable change and transition', the report makes clear that substantial improvements still need to be made. There are a range of concerns that relate to UKBA's duty of care towards detainees. Most notably this includes a recommendation that detainees with mental health needs should rarely be detained; previous recommendations for a comprehensive mental health needs analysis and mental health awareness training for staff have still not been achieved. The report highlights that the completion of Rule 35 reports, the key mechanism to safeguard victims of torture or those unfit to detain, were 'insufficient' and 'formulaic'. The inpatient unit was described by staff as 'a forgotten world'. These issues are of great concern to AVID and its member groups, and a priority for us in our work with BID on the Mental Health in Detention policy project.
The report also highlights the 'disproportionate' use of handcuffing on escort, and makes a total of 161 recommendations. You can read the full report here.
Equality and Human Rights Commission highlights Immigration Detention as key concern: March 6th, 2012
The Equality and Human Rights Review Commission yesterday (5th March 2012) launched their triennial review, an investigation into the current state of Human Rights in England and Wales: “How Fair is Britain? An assessment of how well public authorities protect human rights”. One of the ten key areas of concern identified in the report is Immigration Detention. AVID and other NGOs who input into the stakeholder consultation which accompanied this review welcome the inclusion, which substantiates various concerns that we have been raising for years.
The report scrutinises, in particular, the length of detention in the UK which ‘risks breaching the right to liberty and security under Article 5’. Also highlighted is the impact of detention on mental and physical health, and in particular notes that IRCs do not offer sufficient care to detainees with mental health conditions. UKBA, as a result ‘may not meet their Article 2 obligation in preventing suicide and self harm’.
The ten key areas for improvement are listed here.
New Brook House IRC Inspection Report (HMIP): January 2012
The a report on a Full Unannounced Follow Up inspection follows an inspection of the facility between 12 and 23 September 2011.
While HMIP note some substantial improvements at the centre, 'significant' concerns remain. Concerns include: inadequate preparations for release and removal of detainees, the quality and quantity of activities and the overuse of separation were cited as continuing issues. Read the report here.
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons Annual report for 2010-2011: September 2011
Is now available to read here. This annual report provides an overview of the progression and development across the prison estate in the UK. With regards to IRCs, the report highlighted inconsistency and uneven progress. Dungavel IRC was the first centre to score 'good' across all four 'healthy establishment tests', whereas Brook House was admonished for a lack of safety across various categories. The report is also concerned with Prisons, Short Term Holding Facilities and Escorts.
Rule 35 Audit Results Finally Published: February 2011
New Home Office Asylum Statistics and Parliamentary Question Responses
Click here to read more about the Home Office asylum statistics for the 4th quarter of 2010 (October - December), and the responses to parliamentary questions about the length of detention and the fast track procedure.
HMP Morton Hall to Become Immigration Removal Centre
Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke has announced that Morton Hall women's prison in Lincolnshire will soon become an immigration detention centre, as part of plans to close down three 'outdated prisons'. This news means that the number of IRCs in the UK will return to eleven, following the closure of Oakington IRC in Cambridgeshire. This project, which had previously been suspended pending the public spending review, will take place in the new financial year. Morton Hall will be an all male IRC, with a capacity of 392. You can read Press Association coverage of Kenneth Clarke's announcement here. For the latest figures regarding the size of the immigration detention estate, click here.
£15 Million of Damages Paid to Unlawfully Detained: 29 November 2010
The costly and wasteful nature of immigration detention was made apparent again yesterday (29 Nov 2010), when the Minister of State for Security, Baroness Neville-Jones, announced that £15 million of damages have been paid out to migrants unlawfully detained in the last two years. Of the £15 million, £3 million was paid out in 2008-09, and £12 million in 2009-10. These figures represent significant additions to an already costly operation.
HMIP Reports: Dungavel and Oakington: Nov 2010
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons has recently published two new reports concerning Immigration Removal Centres.
The first, following an inspection in June, relates to Dungavel House in South Lanarkshire, Scotland, and is available here. The report praises the continued improvement of the facility.
The second report, relating to Oakington Immigration Reception Centre, has also been made available. The Cambridgeshire centre, which opened in 2000 and was eventually closed on 12th November this year, was the subject of concern in previous reports largely due to the uncertainty surrounding its future which led to chronic underinvestment. Read the report here.
AVID, LDSG and GDWG collectively call for Detention Reform
A joint letter, co-signed by 28 organisations across the sector, was sent to Damian Green Immigration Minister and Theresa May Home Secretary in June 2010. In this letter, we asked for a halt on proposed expansion to the detention estate until an enquiry has been carried out into the practice.
We have now recieved a response to our letter, which you can read in full here. The response came from UKBA detention services and refutes our argument that current use of detention is "expensive, inefficient and damaging". It outlines the UKBA policies and procedures which underpin immigration detention, and reiterates their long held view that detention is used only when necessary, for the shortest time possible, and with adequate support mechanisms in place.
This initial response is disheartening, but we see this as a the first step in a wider programme of collaborative work, building on momentum already evidenced by those 28 organisations who joined us in making this call.
Next steps include engaging parliamentarians and raising awareness of the need for detention to be investigated. Along with GDWG and LDSG we have drafted a briefing and statement, available to all, and which we urge you to send to your MP. We'll keep you informed on progress via the Detention Forum website: http://detentionforum.wordpress.com
Oakington IRC to close on 12th November 2010
You can read the full article here
No formal announcement on Ending Child Detention before Parliamentary Recess
Despite NIck Clegg's pledge that the family unit at Yarl's Wood IRC was to close, NGOs expressed concerns that no formal announcement to this effect was made before the Parliamentary Recess. These fears were given substance by the leaking of a document about a pilot scheme the UKBA has launched in North West England. The document outlines a pilot 'alternative to detention' scheme which rather than detaining families, will give them 2 weeks notice to leave the UK voluntarily. If the family fails to go, they will be deported 'at some point' in the next 2 weeks. The document outlines possible impacts on public services including police, as well as the need to minimise community protests and disruption.
AVID is concerned that two weeks notice is inadequate, particularly for those families who have been in the UK for some time. These kind of schemes were argued against by many who submitted responses to the consultation which took place as part of the review of child detention.