Refugee Council response report on immigration removal and detention centres from the Chief Inspector of Prisons - Refugee Council
April 8, 2003

Refugee Council response report on immigration removal and detention centres from the Chief Inspector of Prisons

The report from the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Anne Owers, on Government detention centres for asylum seekers reveals a pattern of disregard for the needs of an extremely vulnerable group who have committed no crime but are still being locked up, often living under prison-like conditions.

Acting Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, Margaret Lally said:

“We warmly welcome the publication of this timely report that has picked up many of the concerns we have raised over a long period of time and makes solid recommendations that the Government should adhere to.

“Detention of people who have committed no crime is an affront to Britain’s tradition of safeguarding basic human rights and liberties. We challenge the Government’s extensive use of detention when it has implemented a very rigourous asylum process including far more suitable and fairer alternatives, such as bail conditions and reporting requirements.

“A huge worry is the Government’s decision not to commit to the strong recommendation of this report that if children are detained this should be for no more than seven days. We believe that detention centres are wholly inappropriate places for children under any circumstances, yet the number of children being locked up and the length of time they are being detained for has increased.

“It has long been a concern to us that the conditions in detention centres differ quite dramatically, with some running very draconian, prison-like regimes, locking people up for 12 hours a day and running very limited visiting hours.

“It is no surprise that those ex-prisons now re-designated as detention centres have received a particularly poor report. The change of name alone cannot change a well-established culture and these centres are still noticeably like prisons, with strict regimes and low standards.

“The Prisons Inspector rightly raises the concern that detainees are being moved between detention centres with little notice, as if they are parcels not people. This has major implications for detainees’ health care and access to legal representation. We have reports that people’s medical records are not being transferred and that legal advisors are not informed about their clients’ whereabouts.

“The report’s recommendation for the Government to employ independent welfare support advisers would ensure that people have access to information about what is happening to them and can assist detainees in sorting out their affairs with banks, landlords, schools and employees.”

Further information

Download an introduction and summary of findings of the report, from HM Inspectorate of Prisons.

Read a BBC online report

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