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The treatment of people detained under the Immigration Act at airports in the south, west and South Wales independently monitored for the first time

The 2023-24 reporting year was the first time short-term holding facilities (STHFs) in the south, west and South Wales have been monitored by an Independent Monitoring Board (IMB). The Board visited STHFs in Bristol and Cardiff airports and Poole, Portsmouth and Newhaven seaports in order to monitor how people were treated when detained, at a time when they may be highly vulnerable and anxious.

In its annual report, the South and West STHF IMB noted that:

  • As a result of low staffing levels some people were held for long periods in less suitable waiting areas that lacked comfort and privacy.
  • In April 2023 Border Force were instructed to remove hot food from the holding rooms and this had not been fully reinstated by the end of the reporting year. The Board finds this unacceptable, especially for those who are being held for long periods or have travelled long distances.
  • The quality of record-keeping did not always reach a satisfactory standard.

However, the Board was pleased to report that:

  • People’s safety appeared to be prioritised by Border Force staff.
  • The facilities available in the holding rooms were generally suitable for short stays.
  • Records indicated that staff treated detained people with respect.

IMB South and West STHF Chair said:

“The Board has spent the reporting year getting to grips with how STHFs should work, and how they actually work. In general, records indicate that people being detained have been treated with respect and their immediate needs have been met by Border Force staff.

The STHF is often the first stage in a longer period in detention. People may go on to be held in other detention facilities monitored by other independent bodies. We recommend that there is a stronger focus on the whole period of detention, with more cooperation between the various monitoring bodies, to ensure the fair and humane treatment of those who are detained.”