JRS UK has renewed its calls for a more humane approach to immigration in light of an inspection report finding high levels of self-harm, use of force, and detention of torture victims at Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) in Lincolnshire.
The report, published yesterday, relays the findings of an inspection conducted by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons in October and November 2019. The report finds that “Detention was often maintained despite the Home Office accepting that a detainee had been tortured” and recommends that “Where evidence of torture is accepted, detention should only be maintained in exceptional circumstances”.
Sophie Cartwright, JRS UK’s policy officer, said, “The immigration detention estate causes huge trauma for thousands of people every year – and this is often visited on people who are already extremely vulnerable. A society that detains victims of torture has to ask itself serious questions. Change is long overdue”.
Under the currently operative “Adults at Risk in Immigration Detention” policy, evidence of vulnerability, such as torture, is weighed against immigration factors in deciding whether to detain or continue detention. The policy replaces a previous one, in which torture victims were ostensibly only detained under exceptional circumstances. It was introduced to protect vulnerable people, including survivors of torture, from harmful immigration detention, but has been widely criticised for failing to do so.
JRS UK frequently supports victims of torture and other profoundly vulnerable individuals through its outreach work at Heathrow Immigration Removal Centre.
William Neal, JRS UK’s detention outreach officer, said, “Many of the men that we accompany in the Heathrow IRCs arrived in the UK having survived experiences torture; the impact of which is exacerbated by their detention. We have seen the damaging impact to a person’s wellbeing that the current Adults at Risk policy causes when an experience of torture is recognised only to be outweighed due to immigration factors. We must do more to ensure vulnerable individuals are kept out of detention.”
The report also found an increase in levels of self-harm since the last HMIP inspection in 2016. A Freedom of Information request made by the NGO No Deportations revealed that 159 suicide attempts were made in UK detention centres between April and June 2018.