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Another detention centre closure:

Morton Hall IRC is to be handed back to HMPPS in summer 2021

AVID has received a letter today from the Home Office, announcing the closure of Morton Hall as an IRC. It will be handed back to Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service in 2021.

While the site will no longer operate as a detention centre, its future is as yet unclear, as it will continue to operate as a prison.

Morton Hall, originally a women’s prison, was converted to an IRC in 2011. Since then, it has been managed by the Prison Service for the Home Office under a joint service level agreement. The centre has come under intense scrutiny and criticism over the years. As recently as March of this year, inspectors raised concerns about the vulnerability of the population and an increase in both the numbers of self harm incidents and the number of people who self harm.

AVID member, Morton Hall Detainee Visitors Group, has been providing support to the men detained there since it opened.

The letter states “the closure of Morton Hall IRC and transfer of the site and buildings back to HMPPS will help the government address increase capacity across the prison estate. We will be considering options for mitigating the loss of Morton Hall over the coming months”.

This is the fifth detention centre to close in five years, following the closures of Dover, Haslar, the Verne, and Campsfield House. These closures were part of a wider detention reform programme to reduce the numbers of people detained. This most recent closure will reduce available bed spaces by 392, leaving six detention centres and two short term holding facilities. As the only prison service run detention facility, the closure of Morton Hall means the entire detention estate is now in the hands of private contractors including Mitie and Serco.

Ali McGinley, AVID’s Director, said ‘this is a very welcome announcement and means just under 400 fewer detention spaces in the UK. On top of the previous closures, this brings detention to an all time low. But the question remains as to why the Home Office continues to detain at all. Evidence has shown, time and again, that indefinite detention is not only ineffective, it causes long lasting harm to individuals, their families and communities.  The Home Office’s reform programme has also included developing community based alternative to detention pilots, and we would urge the Government to place these initiatives at the centre of any future plans, in order to mitigate further harm'

Camille Herreman, Director-Coordinator of Morton Hall Detainee Visitors Group said "we welcome the decision to close Morton Hall detention centre, that the detention estate will be reduced, and that after ten long years in Lincolnshire there will be one less detention centre in the UK. We've seen first hand the human impact of detention at Morton Hall. We hope that a reduction in the number of detention centres and those detained within them is a step towards a fairer asylum and immigration system for everyone"

Michael Darko, Trustee of AVID, said  “As someone who spent 9.5 months at Morton Hall Detention Centre between 2013 - 2014, I am delighted to hear the news that it will finally cease to operate as a detention centre. This decision means a considerable reduction in detention spaces and a reduction to the unnecessary harm and torture to those subject to immigration control. I have directly experienced the dehumanisation and damage caused by detention and the harm caused does not stop with us; it disseminates vigorously through our families and communities.

As an individual with direct experience, I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank Morton Hall Detainee Visitors Group for being the light at the end of the tunnel for many people who have passed through this detention centre. I also want to highlight the work of AVID’s members and everyone who has been working to end the system of detention for administrative purpose. Five centres closed is a huge step forwards. We must continue to work hard to bring an end to the addiction of enforcement and begin a period of engagement, working towards a fairer and humane immigration system. “

AVID would like to highlight the work of Morton Hall Detainee Visitors Group, made up of local volunteers from Nottingham and Lincoln, who have tirelessly supported the men detained at the centre since it opened. Volunteer visitors are a lifeline for those held in immigration detention, and their impact cannot be underestimated. To find out more about volunteer visiting, visit www.aviddetention.org.uk

22nd July 2020

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