Shocking failings of immigration detention need to be addressed by new review

Last updated February 9, 2015Press release

Home Secretary Theresa May today announced an independent inquiry into welfare in immigration detention. Refugee Action welcomes this long overdue review but urges the inquiry to broaden its remit and address shocking failings of immigration detention, such as people being detained indefinitely without any good reason.

Yemane Tsegai, Acting Chief Executive of Refugee Action stated:

“Many of the people being locked up in immigration removal centres have fled torture and human rights abuses in their own countries. They come to the UK in search of protection and are unnecessarily held for months, sometimes years, in the stressful environment of a detention centre.

“The recent Parliamentary Inquiry into Immigration Detention heard examples of people being detained in order to be removed from the UK, but further attempts to remove them repeatedly failed. If it is to meaningfully address the welfare of detainees, this review must also address the policies that cause some of the most vulnerable people in our society to be detained.”

Refugee Action hopes the new independent review, led by Steven Shaw, looks at the evidence collected by the Detention Inquiry. Reports of appalling treatment included women miscarrying following inappropriate health treatment while detained, and an 84-year-old with Alzheimer’s dying in handcuffs despite having been assessed as unfit for detention. We recommend the review should in particular examine the welfare of vulnerable people such as pregnant women, the elderly and those with disabilities and mental health issues.

“People treat us as if we were criminal,” said one detainee interviewed by Refugee Action. “I am a victim and came to London to be a free man and ask for protection, but it’s not the case. I came to be protected by human rights.”

This new review should also consider the impact of the Home Office decision to end Assisted Voluntary Return (AVR) for immigration detainees from April 2014.

Yemane Tsegai, added: “Refugee Action’s Choices Service helped detainees make informed decisions on whether to voluntarily return to their countries through AVR programmes and provided support. We believe the decision to end AVR in detention was flawed. Immigration detainees should be eligible for AVR and be supported to consider their future.”

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