JRS has welcomed the call from HM Inspector of Prisons for a strict time limit on detention. The call for a time limit on how long people can be held in immigration detention is one of a number of recommendations in the Inspectorate’s latest investigation of the Colnbrook Unit, part of the Heathrow Immigration Removal Centre, which was published on 27 July 2016. JRS UK has a detention outreach service into Colnbrook, and has long voiced concerns about the impact of detention on people’s mental health.
Sarah Teather, Director of JRS UK said “It is time we had a time limit on detention. Our team of staff and volunteers see the consequences of detention each week in Colnbrook. There have been some improvements to the welfare operation at Colnbrook, but no amount of pastoral care can make up for the indefinite restriction of a person’s liberty and the fear and anxiety associated with such uncertainty. The Home Office needs to adopt a time limit and invest in alternatives to holding people in detention, not just tinker with the building.”
The latest inspection reports a mixed picture of Colnbrook, with some welcome improvements in the functioning of the welfare team for instance, which JRS recognises from its own work. However, the core issue remains that too many people are detained for far too long. HM Inspector of Prisons is one of many now calling for a strict time limit on how long people can be detained for within the detention system. The observations on the poor quality of caseworking and the problems with unbalanced detention reviews and the ongoing detention of people whose cases will never be resolved in a timely manner are particularly pertinent observations.
The report recommends that detainees with severe mental illnesses should not be in immigration detention. JRS UK is aware of the correlation between mental health deterioration and long period of internment in detention. This has been underpinned by much research and recently highlighted in the Stephen Shaw Review published in January 2016, which JRS UK contributed to.
The Stephen Shaw review can be accessed here.
HMIP full report on Colnbrook Unit is accessible here.