The Chief Inspector of Prisons has published two separate damning reports which reveal the fear and chaos at the heart of Britain’s murky detention estate.
The reports revealed a climate of fear, with over a third of people within Tinsley House confessing to feeling unsafe, and over a quarter claiming to have been assaulted or insulted by a member of staff.
Inspectors also expressed concern about the prolonged, unnecessary and possibly unlawful detention occurring at Tinsley House. At the time of inspection, three detainees had been held for more than six months and one had been held for 16 months. Administrative errors were a significant factor in some of these delays.
Meanwhile inspectors at Beckett House discovered people were being held in secondary search area without written legal authority and by an officer who lacked proper accreditation with none of the safeguards in place inspectors would expect to see.
We are especially alarmed by some of the inspectors’ findings in relation to the welfare of vulnerable people imprisoned within Britain’s detention centres.
Despite the previous Government’s 2010 pledge to end child detention, families with children still find themselves locked up at Tinsley House. Inspectors criticised a failure to look for alternative options to detention, and suggested families could have easily have been accommodated in nearby hotels instead.
Worryingly, inspectors discovered that some Rule 35 reports, which deal with allegations of torture and special conditions, were not given sufficient weight by the Home Office. In one Rule 35 report inspectors examined, a doctor described a person’s multiple scarring as consistent with his account of torture. The person was receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and was being counselled by a mental health nurse at Tinsley House. The Rule 35 report was rejected because it did not constitute ‘independent medical evidence of torture’.
Disturbingly, while inspectors were present at Beckett House a woman collapsed. Staff failed to immediately call an ambulance, but when they eventually did, they didn’t know the centre’s postcode.
Refugee Council Policy Manager Judith Dennis said: “These reports cast a much needed light on Britain’s shadowy immigration detention estate.
“Ministers must recognise that doggedly pursuing the current system of routinely locking up vulnerable men, women and children whose only crime has been to think they would be safe in Britain isn’t working.
“It’s high time the Government acknowledged the truth: immigration detention is inhumane, expensive and inefficient; and it has no place in a civilised society.”