Today the government provided a statement in response to the second ‘Shaw Review’ – a government commissioned analysis of the progress it has made since Stephen Shaw’s first report into vulnerable adults in detention published in 2016.
The government has made significant changes to policy and practice since then and the 2018 report reflects that some of these changes have had the desired effect, although it notes that there remains a lack of independent scrutiny. It also notes that the revised policy aimed at reducing the number of people in detention who are at risk of harm by being locked up has not really worked. Shaw also notes that whilst there has been a small reduction in the number of people held in immigration detention, the number of those locked up for 6 months or more has increased; Stephen Shaw refers to this finding as ‘troubling’; unsurprisingly when he also points out that more than half of all immigration detainees are released into the community rather than removed from the UK.
The review also considered staff culture and the safeguards against abusive practice, such as whistleblowing, in light of the Panorama revelations into staff conduct shown on the BBC in September 2017.
The Home Secretary gave a brief statement to the House in response; making pledges to improve the dignity of detainees and continue to improve the Adults at Risk Policy. He also announced a new pilot aimed at processing the cases of vulnerable women in the community, reducing the need for the government’s use of Yarls’ Wood detention centre. He also committed to continuing to work with the UNHCR and others on alternatives to detention.
Maurice Wren, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, said: “It is regrettable that the Home Office needed a review to tell it that people in detention should be treated with dignity and that alternatives to this harmful practice be explored. Detention should play no part in the asylum system and though commitments to greater scrutiny of this harmful practice are welcome, the government needs to heed the important message that currently policy is not being followed.
“The Home Office has been given a vital opportunity to act decisively on a hugely important issue but has been indecisive. All we can do now is urge the government to change the very damaging culture of detention and the place it has in our society. The fact remains we still detain far too many people for too long and fail to take seriously the harm this causes to human life.”