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

Publishing its annual report for 2021, the independent monitoring board for Heathrow immigration removal centre says that the Home Office struggled to provide sufficient support for those detained there, who often felt frustrated and powerless as a result.

 The Board’s annual report highlights examples of good, if not excellent, practice, including:

  • The management of Covid-19
  • The broad provision of services, despite ongoing lockdown challenges, including valuable education and training opportunities
  • Individual cases of great kindness to those who were vulnerable by all three agencies operating in the centre.

Those positive elements were, however, to a large extent overshadowed by challenges which included:

  • The need to support over 5,600 people who had arrived via the south coast
  • The continued detention of men with severe mental health issues – which were often further exacerbated by prolonged periods of detention
  • The inappropriate use of the care and separation unit to house people with mental health problems
  • The lack of face-to-face, or in many cases, even basic telephone, support for those detained that was provided by the Home Office.

Commenting on the report, IMB Heathrow IRC Chair, Karina Kielbinska, said:

‘The Board acknowledges the staffing challenges faced by the Home Office as the country, and centre, began to exit the pandemic. However, our overriding concern is the humane and fair treatment of detainees, and our experiences during 2021 indicate that the failure to engage with them in relation to their immigration cases severely impacted their wellbeing, and in some cases, mental health. If the government is truly committed to its Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) obligations then it must adequately invest in the resources required to protect people deprived of their liberty.’