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Concern that Home Office policy is preventing people in immigration detention taking prescribed medicines

In its annual report published today, the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) for the North East Midlands and Yorkshire & Humber short-term holding facility (STHF) raises serious concerns over Home Office policy that affects detained people with pre-existing medical conditions. The Board also has further concerns about the induction interview process and the inappropriate environments that detained people are sometimes held in.

The report notes that:

  • The rules around the confiscation of prescribed medicines at non-residential STHFs, where people can be detained for up to 24 hours, could lead to a medical emergency and potentially endanger the lives of detained people.
  • In one instance medicine that was needed to prevent seizures was confiscated from a man with epilepsy. Another case involved a man with an artificial heart valve who had NHS-prescribed daily medication to prevent blood clotting and to treat high blood pressure.  
  • Induction interviews, which include questions on highly sensitive topics such as whether a person has been the victim of sexual abuse, are taking place in one residential STHF in an open, non-private space where the interview can be overheard. The Board is also concerned about the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ question format of interviews, which may not identify serious issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, victims of modern slavery, or other forms of exploitation.
  • Police custody is being used to hold detained people when there are delays in arranging transport to residential immigration detention facilities, which can cause confusion and anxiety.

Dominic Byrne, Chair of NE Midlands, Yorkshire & Humberside IMB, commented:

“At all the facilities we monitor, we see staff behaviours, processes and practices that indicate that the safety, welfare and dignity of detained people are matters of priority. There are a lot of positives. But there are many areas where we have significant concerns and we have made seventeen separate recommendations to the Home Secretary, the Home Office, Border Force and local facility managers to address these.

“We are particularly worried that the current rules on confiscation of medicines can endanger life. We invite the Home Secretary and all the people reading this report to consider how they would feel if their mother, father, son or daughter had a health condition, was placed in detention and then was deprived of medicine that was necessary to maintain their health and, possibly, safeguard their life.

“We have previously raised concerns, including a letter to the Minister from the IMB National Chair, about this matter. The current rules place staff at these facilities in a very difficult position. If they apply the rules, they can end up with a medical emergency on their hands. If they allow the detained person to take a dose, and in some instances they have felt they have had to, they are in breach of the rules. We hope the Home Secretary will reconsider policy around the confiscation of prescribed medication, and the impact this has on detained people.”