Immigration detention Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Operation of the detention estate

1.The application of immigration detention as set out in policy and guidance is meant to be carried out in line with the process described in this section. However, the evidence taken by the Committee shows that there are serious problems with almost every element of the process, which lead to people being wrongfully detained, held in detention when they are vulnerable and detained for too long. Substantial reforms are needed. (Paragraph 20)

2.The latest Home Office immigration statistics show a decrease in the number of people being detained. We welcome this recent reduction. However, we are deeply troubled that, beneath this headline figure, there is an increase in people being held in immigration detention for over six months, many of whom are foreign national offenders. (Paragraph 28)

3.We are also concerned about the fact that more than half of the people being detained in the year to December 2018 were simply released again, raising important questions over whether the power to detain is being used appropriately. The power to detain is a necessary one, but should be used only if there are no other options, as a last resort prior to removal. The power should be exercised for the shortest possible time and only when there is a realistic prospect of removal within a reasonable period. (Paragraph 29)

Decision to detain

4.The initial detention decision should be made by the Home Office but reviewed within 72 hours by a judge. This would be in line with other areas of UK law, for example in the UK criminal justice system, where an upper limit for detention without charge exists. (Paragraph 38)

5.The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 places a statutory duty upon the Secretary of State to ensure that immigration, asylum and nationality functions “are discharged having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children who are in the United Kingdom”. The Home Office’s guidance for caseworkers and Immigration Compliance and Enforcement (ICE) officers on family separations is founded upon this statutory duty and clearly states that the best interests of any child must be the “primary consideration” for officials in each case. Yet it is clear that this guidance is not always being followed. The Government should bring forward legislation specifically to prevent the separation of a nursing mother from the child they are nursing, and the separation of a child from one or both parents where the result would be that the child is taken into care. (Paragraph 41)

6.We recognise that age-related vulnerability is complex and that perspectives on and definitions of ‘older people’ can differ widely. However, the Home Office does not define ‘older people’ in either the Adults at Risk statutory guidance or the Adults at Risk policy guidance; also it does not explain why an individual specifically aged 70 or over should be regarded as vulnerable. We recommend that the Government should have a clear policy which avoids detaining people over the age of 60 unless there are exceptional reasons to do so. (Paragraph 45)

7.We recommend that the Government should recognise that LGBTQI+ people are vulnerable in immigration detention, thereby extending the recognition that it already affords to trans and intersex people to all LGBTQI+ individuals. Secondly, the Home Office should monitor and publish statistics on the number of LGBTQI+ people it detains. (Paragraph 54)

8.We are very concerned about the discrepancy in the evidence we have been given and we are not confident in the accuracy of the Home Office information. While we accept it is the intention only to detain people where there are public protection reasons to do so, in practice we are concerned that too many asylum seekers are being detained who may not need to be, and that inappropriate decisions are being taken to lock people up. (Paragraph 59)

9.Immigration officials tasked with detaining and removing people from the UK face making difficult decisions on a daily basis. However, cases drawn to our attention show that the Home Office is ignoring and breaching its own policy guidance. While the Government’s data can only provide an inexact picture of mistaken decisions, it is clear that people are being wrongly detained. We are appalled that the Home Office does not collate basic, transparent information about the number of people who are wrongfully detained. These are cases in which people have been wrongly deprived by the state of one of their most basic rights, potentially causing them great harm and distress. For the Home Office not even to collate this information so that ministers and senior officials can monitor or review the problem shows a shockingly cavalier attitude to the deprivation of liberty and the protection of people’s basic rights. The Home Office needs to urgently change its recording systems and ensure there is a proper process to record and publish quarterly the number of people wrongfully detained and to publish annually the level of compensation paid out. (Paragraph 65)

10.Detaining an individual for reasons of immigration control is a deprivation of that person’s liberty. Decisions to detain an individual are taken by Home Office officials and not by a judge or court. The Home Office must do much more to ensure that all reasonable alternatives to detention have been considered before detention is authorised. As we have seen from the Windrush scandal, wrongful Home Office decisions to detain have wrecked people’s lives. The Home Office needs to be more transparent in its explanation to detainees and legal representatives of why a decision to detain has been made, and to support that decision with detailed evidence. Similarly, with regard to cases of wrongful detention and removal, the Home Office needs to change its approach to litigation, by admitting where things have gone wrong, apologising, and seeking to learn lessons. Furthermore, the Home Office must take remedial action in respect of officials responsible for cases of wrongful detention and removal, so that the same mistakes are not repeated and decision-makers understand the seriousness of getting cases wrong. (Paragraph 66)

11.It is shocking that, other than asylum interviews, there is no face to face contact between immigration decision makers and the detainee during the initial decision to detain. We believe this contributes to the cavalier attitude towards detention decisions. Had decision-makers ever met Paulette Wilson before deciding that she should be detained, it might have made them more likely to spot the injustice in her case or realise that there was a problem. It is a basic tenet of our legal system that when judges take the decision to detain, that person is brought before the court. Therefore it is extremely troubling that in the immigration and asylum system people can be deprived of their liberty through an entirely paper-based exercise by officials where no one involved in the decision ever interviews the potential detainee. We welcome the Government’s recent introduction of pre-departure teams [PDTs] within a number of IRCs, but their coverage is currently very patchy and such teams are only relevant to those individuals already in detention. Further, their staff are not caseworkers and cannot make decisions on cases. (Paragraph 77)

12.We strongly support Mr Shaw’s recommendation that all “caseworkers involved in detention decisions should visit an IRC either on secondment or as part of their mandatory training” but we believe that is not the same as meeting someone as part of the decision-making process. We recommend that immigration caseworkers involved in the decision-making process to detain an individual should meet that individual at least once, in person, prior to finalising the detention decision or/and within one week of their detention. (Paragraph 78)

13.The introduction of the Detention Gatekeeper function is a welcome step forward, but the current approach still fails to provide sufficient safeguards to prevent inappropriate detention or the detention of vulnerable adults. As the latest Shaw report noted, large numbers of vulnerable people are still being detained. This indicates that vulnerable people are being wrongly routed into detention due to the Gatekeepers’ incorrect validations or misplaced challenges of Home Office caseworkers’ decisions. There needs to be a thorough, face-to-face pre-detention screening process to facilitate the disclosure of vulnerability. Where there is no deemed risk of absconding, this screening should be undertaken at the point of enforcement activity, for example, as part of the reporting process where UK Visas and Immigration officials or Enforcement officers should feedback any concerns they have about a person’s suitability for detention. Even a short period of detention for someone who, for example, has been a victim of torture could be extremely traumatic. Therefore it is essential that a proper pre-screening assessment is done. (Paragraph 79)

14.The Home Office needs to improve its performance in capturing detainee vulnerability in the early days of an individual’s detention. We are concerned by reports that initial screening processes are rushed and that detainees are made insufficiently aware of their importance. Detainees arriving in detention for the first time are understandably reluctant to talk openly about traumatic past experiences but the crucial importance of reporting vulnerability to enable potential release should be made explicit. Similarly, immigration detention centre staff should explain to a newly arrived detainee that they may be automatically referred for a bail hearing after four months of detention, and at what other stages of their detention they can apply for immigration bail. (Paragraph 85)

15.The Government should stop night moves unless exceptional criteria are met, and the length of time detainees spend in transfer should be kept to a minimum. We recommend that future contracts concerning detainee transfers should stipulate a 7pm cut-off for arrival and should require that prior approval must be sought from the Home Office for exceptional circumstances where that deadline will not be met. Requests for such approval should also be reported to the Independent Monitoring Board so that there is oversight of its use. (Paragraph 86)

16.It is evident from what we have heard that the Government’s Detention Duty Advice scheme is flawed and is failing to provide adequate legal safeguarding to those who need it most. Under the DDA scheme, people who are detained in IRCs are eligible for 30 minutes’ free legal advice. However due to severe cuts in legal aid following the implementation of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO), many detainees are not able to access legal advice. Rigorous means and merits tests, as well as a requirement for detainees to demonstrate a strong human rights case means that the harsh reality is, that legal aid funding is extremely difficult to obtain. (Paragraph 95)

17.We deeply regret that the Government has failed to listen to the legal bodies that have submitted their views to the post implementation review of LASPO and to address radically the current failings in the system and provision of legal advice to some of the most vulnerable individuals who are held in immigration detention. We repeat the recommendation made in the Committee’s report on the Windrush generation that legal aid arrangements should be restored for immigration matters in order to allow those with complex cases the access to legal advice they need. (Paragraph 96)

18.People held under immigration powers in prisons subject to deportation procedures, i.e. foreign national offenders who are serving custodial sentences in prisons and who are liable to deportation at the end of their sentences, do not have access to the DDA scheme in prison. This means that they have no guaranteed access to a legal adviser and have to find and contact a lawyer themselves. Foreign national offenders should be afforded the same legal safeguarding provisions as immigration detainees held in IRCs so that, on completion of their custodial sentence, they can be deported or have their immigration status resolved rather than entering immigration detention. This should include access in prison to the DDA scheme. (Paragraph 97)

Treatment of vulnerable adults in detention

19.The Adults at Risk (AAR) policy is clearly not protecting the vulnerable people that it was introduced to protect. Instead, by introducing three levels of evidence of risk which are then weighed against a broad range of immigration factors, the policy has increased the burden on vulnerable people to evidence the risk of harm that might render them particularly vulnerable if they were placed or remained in detention. (Paragraph 118)

20.The previous policy to protect vulnerable people in immigration detention [Chapter 55.10 of the Enforcement Instructions and Guidance] stipulated a presumption not to detain except in ‘very exceptional circumstances’. We are concerned that the AAR policy is not only failing to protect vulnerable people but, by introducing a requirement for individuals to provide evidence of the level of their vulnerability risk in detention, has significantly lowered the threshold for Home Office caseworkers to maintain detention of those most at risk. The AAR policy was not a concept that Stephen Shaw proposed in his first review: although he believes it has potential, the policy is not working as he had anticipated. The AAR policy has not only failed to mitigate the harmful impact of detention on vulnerable people but has failed to deliver a reduction in the number of vulnerable people in detention. We urge the Government to abolish the three AAR levels of risk and to revert to its previous policy of a presumption not to detain vulnerable individuals except “in very exceptional circumstances”. (Paragraph 119)

21.We welcome the Government’s identification of a wider range of vulnerabilities in the AAR policy, and its recognition of the dynamic nature of vulnerabilities. However, it is evident from both the broad range of vulnerabilities being assessed at AAR Level 2 and the disproportionately large numbers of people being categorised at this level, that the Government’s ‘holistic’ interpretation of the fluctuating nature of vulnerabilities is failing to provide adequate mechanisms and safeguards to assess a person’s vulnerability before and during detention. In line with Medical Justice, we recommend a return to the previous category-based approach rather than “indicators of risk” so that an individual who belongs to a category at increased risk of harm in detention is considered suitable for detention in only very exceptional circumstances. To avoid a check list approach, the Home Office should include a catch-all category which captures those who are particularly vulnerable to detention but who also may not fall within one of the pre-set categories. For example, this might include a detainee who has recently suffered a bereavement. The Home Office should consult with a wide range of stakeholders who are affected by detention, including people with lived experience, to develop an agreed grouping of categories. The policy should also retain the commitment for a self-declaration of vulnerability to trigger a duty of inquiry into the asserted vulnerability. (Paragraph 120)

22.We welcome the Government’s commitment to commission an ongoing annual report by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration to assess progress on the AAR policy. This reporting should assess the operation of the entire AAR framework, including the Detention Gatekeeper Team and the Rule 35 process to ensure that the Government’s system to protect vulnerable people is effectively and robustly monitored, and so that accurate data can be published. (Paragraph 121)

23.The fundamental purpose of the Adults at Risk framework is to protect all vulnerable individuals from the harmful effects of detention. It seeks to do this by providing a robust safeguarding process that effectively identifies, and ensures that the right decision is made concerning, an individual’s risk in detention. This principle must not be diluted by the Government’s dominant focus on the definition of torture, which poses a risk that other individuals who are particularly vulnerable to harm in detention could be overlooked. (Paragraph 127)

24.The Government should at the very least review the AAR policy guidance with immediate effect to ensure that it includes clear, inclusive and effective categories of vulnerability, with a presumption not to detain unless there are exceptional circumstances. This review should be completed by 1 December 2019. Any amendments to the AAR policy guidance should be reflected in Rule 35 of the Detention Centre Rules 2001 [See paragraph 130 on Rule 35], as well as the Home Office operational Enforcement Instructions and Guidance. Such a review should also revisit the definition of torture, in light of the Shaw follow-up review and concerns raised by various organisations in their evidence to us, and in line with the overall purpose of the Adults at Risk policy. (Paragraph 128)

25.The Government should also replace the current vulnerability indicators in the AAR statutory guidance of “torture” and “victims of sexual or gender-based violence” with a more inclusive indicator based on the UNHCR detention guidelines, namely “victims of torture or other serious, physical, psychological, sexual or gender-based violence or ill-treatment”. This would enable a broader category of risk to be identified and would be more easily applied by caseworkers and doctors. (Paragraph 129)

26.We are extremely concerned that the Rule 35 process is plagued with too many long delays, sets too high an evidential burden, and that internal review panel recommendations to release are being overturned by senior Home Office officials. (Paragraph 149)

27.The Home Office must ensure that the Rule 35 process is adequately resourced and monitored to enable medical practitioners in IRCs to carry out their functions efficiently and to deliver Rule 35 reports to the evidential threshold required. All IRC medical practitioners should continue to receive training in identifying and documenting concerns as part of the Rule 35 process. Likewise, Home Office case workers should be trained to ensure that there is fairness, accuracy and consistency in their assessments and interpretation of Rule 35 reports. (Paragraph 150)

28.As highlighted by Stephen Shaw in his follow-up review, there is a need for an alternative, independent mechanism in the Rule 35 decision making process. Currently, decisions relating to Rule 35 reports are made by the caseworker responsible for progressing an individual’s case, as well as their detention. This is not a fair or robust system. We urge the Government to explore alternatives that would ensure independent oversight as part of the Rule 35 decision making process. (Paragraph 151)

29.We welcome the Government’s commitment to review the Rule 35 process. A review of Rule 35 is urgently required to ensure that no further injustices take place on the immigration detention estate. As part of any change to the process, we urge the Government to ensure that Rule 35 effectively identifies all vulnerable groups, as reflected in the wider UNHCR detention guidelines [e.g. “victims of torture or other serious, physical, psychological, sexual or gender-based violence or ill-treatment”] and that these categories are clearly mirrored in the Adults at Risk (AAR) policy guidance. The process used to identify any individual who may be vulnerable to harm in detention must be one that is coherent, fair and easy to apply; the current Rule 35 process, as part of the Adults at Risk framework, clearly fails to achieve this. (Paragraph 152)

30.At the time of publication, the government review of Rule 35 had not been done. We recommend that a comprehensive review of Rule 35 is completed by the end of June 2019. (Paragraph 153)

31.We are deeply saddened and concerned by the recent reports of an increase in the number of self-inflicted deaths taking place in or shortly after immigration detention. We welcome the Home Office’s inclusion in its statistics of deaths in immigration detention from September 2018. This action was long overdue. However, as outlined in the evidence we received, it remains very difficult to access accurate and detailed data on the causes of deaths in immigration detention. The Home Office data does not state if a death was self-inflicted, natural, or if it occurred in a prison. In line with recommendations by Stephen Shaw, and Ministry of Justice practice, the Home Office should publish a more systematic and transparent record of deaths in immigration detention with immediate effect. This should include whether the cause of death is apparently self-inflicted, from natural causes, or unknown. The data should also record deaths of detainees held under immigration powers in HM prisons. (Paragraph 158)

Length of detention

32.Home Office caseworking inefficiencies are unnecessarily prolonging people’s detention, with some being held for more than three years. This is unacceptable and adversely affects the most vulnerable people in detention. We welcome the Immigration Minister’s acknowledgement that her Department needs more caseworkers and call on the Government to urgently increase the resources and staffing in the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) caseworking team to ensure that people’s immigration cases are swiftly resolved. (Paragraph 167)

33.The number of foreign national offenders who are held in prison under immigration powers despite having served their sentence remains far too high. People should not be held in prison beyond the end of a custodial sentence. The Home Office should ensure that notifications of liability for deportation are sent to foreign national offenders several months before the end of their custodial sentences. This would enable the necessary representations and legal challenges to take place and, where these were unsuccessful, provide for the timely organisation of travel documents. Importantly, this would avoid unacceptable situations of double punishment. (Paragraph 168)

34.The Detention Centre Rules 2001 clearly stipulate that detainees must be provided with written justification for their detention at the time of their initial detention followed by monthly reviews. From the evidence we have seen, this is clearly not always happening. The outcome of these monthly detention reviews is life changing for the most vulnerable people in detention. If there is no prospect of imminent removal, then people should not be detained. (Paragraph 172)

35.Failure to provide justification for continued detention will only compound detainees’ frustration and may lead to self-harm and violence in immigration removal centres. Home Office decisions to maintain detention must be clearly justified so that a person knows exactly why they are being detained, and if appropriate can challenge the Home Office decision. Home Office decisions to maintain detention must be clearly justified so that a person knows exactly why they are being detained, and if appropriate can challenge the Home Office decision. (Paragraph 173)

36.HMIP has highlighted instances where senior Home Office officials have overridden their own independent review panel’s decisions to release vulnerable detainees, and continued detention, without any justification. This raises serious questions about the purpose of the Home Office’s independent review panel. Ultimately, the Home Office cannot and should not be maintaining detention by default. We are also extremely concerned about the lack of any consistent information on the overturning of review panel decisions which could be used for monitoring senior officials’ decision-making and ensure proper accountability. (Paragraph 174)

37.Following the Home Secretary’s commitment, in response to Stephen Shaw’s follow up review, to publish more data on immigration detention, we urge the Home Office to begin to publish its data on the rationale for decisions not to release individuals subject to Rule 35 reports by 1 July 2019. This data can be anonymised, and therefore there should be no reason why the Home Office cannot publicly share this information. (Paragraph 175)

38.The Home Office should also provide more transparent and detailed reporting about the reasons for continued detention. Data on the barriers to release of individuals detained for more than six months should be published as part of the Home Office’s next quarterly immigration statistics. We would also urge the Home Office to improve its learning from cases where people are released from detention on immigration bail to prevent people being inappropriately detained in the future. If this learning is successfully embedded in Home Office operations, we would expect the number of cases where people are held in immigration detention for over six months to decrease. (Paragraph 176)

39.The Home Office introduced case progression panels to provide internal independence to the detention decision-making process at three-monthly intervals. However, we question whether a process that remains internal can be truly independent. It is clear from the evidence we have received that this review process is not functioning as an effective independent check on decisions to maintain detention. We echo Stephen Shaw’s comment in his follow up review, that “there remains a need for robust independent oversight”. (Paragraph 182)

40.There are a multitude of barriers which prevent some of the most vulnerable people in immigration detention from being released. The immigration detention bail process is unnecessarily complex and relies heavily on a detainee’s knowledge of and access to legal advice and representation to secure immigration bail. Furthermore, the Home Office is attributing excessive weight to absconding and non-compliance which, as we have learnt, could simply mean that an individual has missed a reporting appointment because of illness. (Paragraph 193)

41.It is unacceptable that some detainees are being forced to languish in immigration detention or in some cases are being thrown onto the streets because the Home Office is not ensuring people can secure accommodation post release. This is unacceptable and a breach of people’s fundamental human rights. (Paragraph 194)

42.The Home Office should urgently review the new immigration bail provisions introduced in January 2018, which, a year on, are clearly not working - in particular to ensure that a lack of accommodation is not preventing immigration bail. The process should be made much simpler for individuals to navigate, and ultimately detainees should not be faced with a choice of destitution or remaining in immigration detention. (Paragraph 195)

43.Parliament passed Section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 which ensures that asylum seekers are not made destitute and homeless and lacking any means of remedying their position, given the restrictions on asylum seekers working in the UK. The provision of accommodation to destitute asylum seekers is a minimum requirement in line with the UK’s international human rights obligations under the Refugee Convention and the prohibition against inhuman and degrading treatment contrary to Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. We are extremely concerned by evidence that the way in which the Home Office is applying this provision means that an asylum seeker in detention cannot satisfy the Home Office’s destitution test for accommodation at the point of release, even if they would be homeless and destitute immediately upon release. Such an approach is perverse. In practice, this means that the Home Office makes it impossible for an impecunious asylum seeker in detention to access accommodation. It can also mean the poorest asylum seekers are locked up for longer simply for being poor. Such an approach risks breaching an individual’s human rights. The Home Office must ensure that destitute asylum seekers in detention are allowed to access accommodation under Section 95 of the 1999 Act and that immigration bail is not refused solely due to a lack of such accommodation. (Paragraph 196)

44.Evidence submitted to the Committee makes it clear that the automatic bail hearing process is not functioning as it should. Reports that detainees are being asked to waive their rights in this regard are particularly troubling. Bail hearings should be scheduled to give detainees adequate time to prepare, and applicants should have access to interpretation, should they so need it, and legal representation as a matter of course. (Paragraph 201)

45.We support Stephen Shaw’s concerns in his follow-up review about the lack of access to legal safeguards for individuals held under immigration powers in prison. It is neither just nor right to deny people detained in prisons the same access to legal safeguarding that is available to detainees held in Immigration Removal Centres. Foreign National Offenders are subject to deportation procedures and are often held in detention for very long periods of time. We support Shaw’s call for the Home Office to extend the automatic immigration bail provisions. These should be extended to all FNOs, including individuals detained under immigration powers in prison who are pending or awaiting deportation. (Paragraph 202)

46.We strongly support the Home Secretary’s commitment that he will consider ending indefinite immigration detention in response to Stephen Shaw’s follow up report. Evidence from a multitude of experts including those affected by detention shows the harm that immigration detention inflicts on detainees’ mental health and well-being. While the indefinite nature of detention traumatises those who are being held, it also means that there is no pressure on the Home Office and immigration system to make swift decisions on individuals’ cases. There is a rapidly growing consensus among medical professionals, independent inspectorate bodies, people with lived experience and other key stakeholders on the urgent need for a maximum time limit. (Paragraph 222)

47.From the evidence we have heard throughout our inquiry, a maximum immigration detention time limit is long overdue. It is clear that lengthy immigration detention is unnecessary, inhumane and causes harm. (Paragraph 223)

48.Home Office policies which should prevent unlawful detention and harm of vulnerable people are regularly flouted or interpreted and applied in such a way that the most vulnerable detainees, including victims of torture are not being afforded the necessary protection. Detainees can be held despite serious risk to their life. As reported by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, one detainee who was a wheelchair user was held for 15 months despite an attempt to set himself on fire. There is a systemic failure in the way that the current safeguards are applied by the Home Office. This administrative failure is accompanied by an institutional culture operating within immigration enforcement, and the Home Office more broadly, that clearly prioritises the use of detention as a means to enforce removal, above respect, dignity and the protection of vulnerable individuals. (Paragraph 224)

49.It is time to implement radical change. In line with the Joint Committee on Human Rights, we urge the Government to bring an end to indefinite immigration detention and to implement a maximum 28-day time limit with immediate effect. We strongly believe that 28 days would be a reasonable statutory immigration detention time limit to enforce, given that the Home Office’s own Enforcement Instructions and Guidance stipulate that detention should only be maintained when removal is imminent (i.e. within 28 days (four weeks)). (Paragraph 225)

50.The Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill may provide a useful opportunity to put this time limit on a statutory footing. However, the Government can change its practice immediately, simply by ceasing to detain people beyond this limit. This 28-day time limit should be cumulative and accompanied by a robust series of regular checks and safeguards. An extension to the 28-day time limit should only be made in very exceptional circumstances and should only be permitted with prior judicial approval. (Paragraph 226)

51.With such a maximum time limit, the Government should put safeguards in place to ensure that this maximum does not become a default period of detention that is routinely applied. To mitigate this risk, it is crucial to ensure that a robust and individualised review of detention occurs on a regular basis. The decision to maintain detention must be continually reviewed by the Home Office with appropriate independent oversight. (Paragraph 227)

52.We recommend that the Government undertakes a public consultation on how detention time limit maximums could be applied to different types of detainees. For example, a lower time limit might apply to vulnerable individuals. If the Home Office assesses an individual to be an “Adult at Risk” in line with its statutory guidance, we propose that the Home Office adopts a similar policy as currently applies to families with children. That is, having in place a 72-hour detention limit, allowing for a maximum extension of 7 days in certain circumstances. (Paragraph 228)

53.We recognise the specific challenges in relation to Foreign National Offenders (FNOs), i.e. that this broad term encompasses those convicted of any offence without British nationality including those who have committed the most serious crimes as well as victims of trafficking and modern slavery who have been coerced into crime. We therefore consider that the Home Secretary should consult on how any public protection issues can best be addressed. (Paragraph 229)

54.We welcome the Government’s recent launch of its pilot scheme to provide alternatives to detention (ATD) for vulnerable women detained in Yarl’s Wood IRC. This is a positive first step to end the harmful and unnecessary detention of vulnerable people. We also welcome its research into further ATD pilots and recommend that it expands the use of community based ATDs as recommended by Stephen Shaw. In its response to our report, we ask the Government to include a comprehensive action plan for its work on ATDs. The action plan should include a breakdown of all the ATDs it is currently considering, the key measures of success for each scheme, and an update on progress. (Paragraph 230)

Immigration removal centres – management and resources

55.The Home Office must meet its obligations to those individuals it detains in immigration removal centres (IRCs). This means that people should be able to access high quality healthcare, equivalent to that in the community. From the evidence we have heard, this is not always the case. (Paragraph 240)

56.We support the British Medical Association’s call for clinical leadership and advice within the Home Office. The Home Office should consider the appointment of a clinically qualified individual to advise on the development of health policy specific to IRCs. In addition to this strategic role, the Home Office should ensure that there is a clinically qualified point of contact within the Home Office for IRC healthcare staff who may require advice relating to Rule 35 reports. Problems with recruitment and staff retention across the whole IRC workforce (including healthcare) must be urgently addressed to prevent staff shortages negatively affecting the health and wellbeing of detained individuals. (Paragraph 241)

57.It is evident from the G4S commissioned investigation into Brook House IRC that the activities and facilities available to detainees at Brook House have drastically failed to meet the statutory requirements as outlined in the Detention Centre Rules 2001. The Home Office must take a more robust approach to ensure that Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) providers maintain adequate staffing levels and resources so that sufficient activities are available to detainees. Low staffing levels mean that people are locked up for longer periods of time, face to face communication is limited and IRC facilities are more likely to be closed (e.g. libraries, cafés, IT facilities) all of which compound levels of frustration and mental health issues among detainees and staff. This can lead to increased levels of self-harm as well as violence among detainees and towards IRC staff. In the event of a serious incident, a lack of staff could have detrimental consequences for everyone’s safety within an IRC. (Paragraph 248)

58.The disgraceful abuse of detainees by staff that was revealed by undercover journalism at Brook House IRC is sadly not the first of its kind. As Stephen Shaw told the Committee, “potential for abusive behaviours is ever-present [ … ] in closed institutions”. Stephen Shaw’s follow up review reported that whistleblowing procedures met good practice in all of the IRCs he visited. Yet, despite what is written on paper, it is evident from the abhorrent abuse that took place in Brook House IRC that many IRC staff and detainees are not using the whistleblowing channels available to them. IRC staff and detainees simply do not trust the process, and have voiced concerns about confidentiality and potential repercussions to their safety. (Paragraph 256)

59.The Home Office must take immediate steps to ensure that all IRCs have robust and effective whistleblowing procedures in place which IRC staff and detainees can use with complete confidence, knowing that they will be fully protected. IRC managers should ensure that both staff and detainees are regularly made aware of the whistle blowing procedures, providing clear written and verbal explanations of what the policy is for, with user friendly whistleblowing toolkits and publicity made available across the IRC. Staff and detainees should also be given explicit reassurance that they would be supported if they raised concerns about any wrongdoing or misconduct they witnessed. Failure to do so may result in further abuses across the immigration detention estate. (Paragraph 257)

60.IRC staff should receive comprehensive training on whistleblowing processes which should be refreshed regularly. In line with Stephen Shaw, we support the provision of a “safe space” for IRC staff to reflect on what they have done well, and less well without fear of discipline or management action. The details of how such a safe space might work should urgently be explored by the Government in consultation with IRC staff and senior managers and reported back to our Committee by 1 December 2019. (Paragraph 258)

61.A healthy staff culture requires strong and effective leadership with managers who are open, supportive, act as role models, but are also firm with regard to setting and enforcing standards and encouraging ethical behaviour. Preventative steps should be taken by managers to mitigate any unethical conduct by taking remedial action where appropriate and avoiding a blame culture which discourages transparency and honesty. We support Stephen Shaw’s recommendation and call on the Home Office to urgently monitor more closely the policies, procedures and practices of its immigration detention contractors in order to more effectively expose inappropriate behaviour. Equally, the Home Office should review its equivalent professional standards policies and procedures with immediate effect and ensure that Home Office staff receive comprehensive training on upholding professional standards and promoting a healthy staff culture. (Paragraph 262)

62.The formal oversight mechanisms currently in place to ensure effective, safe and humane management of IRCs are clearly not working; this is evident from the disgusting abuse of detainees by some staff revealed by an undercover journalist at Brook House IRC in 2017. Six of the seven IRCs across the UK are contracted out to a handful of outsourcing firms including G4S, Serco, Mitie and the GEO group. Accountability for any serious misconduct rests with the Home Office, which is ultimately responsible for the effective operation of our immigration detention estate. We must not forget too that the Home Office monitoring staff were on site and did not raise any concerns about wrongdoing at Brook House IRC. (Paragraph 270)

63.It is clear from the evidence we heard that the Home Office has utterly failed in its responsibilities to oversee and monitor the safe and humane detention of individuals in the UK. Consequently, we strongly welcome the Home Office’s agreement on 11 October 2018 to conduct an independent inquiry into the maltreatment of detainees by some staff at Brook House. Over four months later, on 5 March 2019, we were advised by the Home Office that the terms of reference had been agreed. We are deeply concerned about the length of time it has taken for the Home Office to agree the terms of reference for such a crucial inquiry. We look forward to seeing the published terms of reference at the first opportunity. (Paragraph 271)

64.During our inquiry we were extremely concerned to hear evidence of alleged financial misconduct at Brook House IRC, with reports that profits reached above what was agreed in G4S’s contract with the Home Office. The Home Office has ultimate oversight of G4S’s publicly-funded contract with Brook House IRC. Given the widespread public concerns voiced over G4S’s management of Brook House in 2017 we are astonished that, for ten months, the Government has ducked the question and missed the opportunity to assuage such concerns by reporting the outcomes of the Moore Stephens review. Such behaviour does not help to instil confidence in the Government’s management of publicly-funded contracts. (Paragraph 274)

Published: 21 March 2019