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Home Office failings and lack of investment undermine the fair and humane treatment of people in detention

Publishing its 2022 annual report, the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) for Heathrow Immigration Removal Centre (HIRC) concluded that important lessons need to be learnt from the failed Rwanda deportation flight in June 2022, and that major investment is required to ensure HIRC’s continued viability as a safe and secure place for detained people.

The Board noted that:

  • Some detained people are being held for unacceptably long periods with no chance of imminent removal. Five men were held for over 180 days each in 2022, with the longest stay totalling 1,177 days.
  • A failed deportation flight to Rwanda highlighted the lack of transparency regarding the criteria used for the selection process, and those selected had little access to information regarding their deportation which caused significant anxiety.
  • The centre had over 30 incidents of loss of utility services throughout the reporting year, with one power and water outage leading to the evacuation of over 500 detained people.
  • 85% of official complaints made by detained people were ruled as ‘unsubstantiated’ which is concerning given that the process relies on the contractor investigating complaints against their own officers and lacks any independent review.

However, the report highlights examples of good, if not excellent, practice, including:

  • The wide range of training and educational facilities available for detained people.
  • The smooth transition of healthcare provision between providers, and the gradual re-introduction of wellbeing initiatives.
  • Incidents of great kindness often shown towards vulnerable detained people by all three agencies operating in the centre.

IMB HIRC Chair, Sabine Zanker, said:

“Based on our exposure to June 2022’s failed Charter to Rwanda, we would urge the government to address our concerns about timings, general transparency and the quality of information prepared for those being deported. Every effort should be made to minimise the stress, upset and increased chances of self-harm caused by the Migration and Economic Development Partnership policy, on both those affected and those in the wider immigration detention estate.

In addition, in the Board’s opinion, if the centre is to continue to exist in its present location then significant investment is required to ensure its continued viability, as well as managing the safety of detained people. We trust that the new contract in 2023 will recognise these challenges by delivering the infrastructure improvements so badly needed”.