Author: Martin Bentham
Immigration detainees are being held for excessively long periods in breach of their human rights at a centre near Heathrow blighted by gang crime and drugs, an official report has said.
The Independent Monitoring Board for the Heathrow Immigration Removal Centre said that some foreign nationals are being detained for as long as four-and-a-half years — even though many will eventually win the right to stay in Britain.
It said that such detentions amount to “inhumane” treatment and that a 28-day limit on stays at the centre should be introduced to cover all immigration detainees except those convicted of crimes.
The board said the centre is designed only for short-term stays and described it as “grubby” and suffering from “blocked toilets, heating problems” and other issues.
The nationwide removal rate for detainees is low, at less than 50 per cent, with the remainder released after appeals overturning “incorrect” Home Office decisions.
“There are still too many detainees held for long periods,” the report added. “To keep someone in detention for years … is inhumane. The longest stay was two years at the end of 2018, though during the year one detainee was held for four years and six months before release on bail.
“If the Home Office is unable to remove a detainee because they cannot be sent back to their home country and repeated attempts have been made to do so, their detention should not be prolonged.”
Other detainees released on bail during 2018 included one held for two years and eight months, another held for two years and five months and a third held for two years and two months.
In other findings, the board warned that the centre, which houses just over 1,000 people, nearly all of them men, suffers from gang crime and a “significant” problem with psychoactive drugs, such as Spice.
It complained that mixing detainees for deportation over criminal offences with others who are due for removal solely for breaching immigration rules is unfair to the latter and exposes them to danger and violence.
Other concerns highlighted include the “unnecessary humiliation” of detainees handcuffed for hospital trips or other visits even when they “do not present an escape risk”.
The report also complained that medical assessments of asylum claimants who say they have suffered physical and mental torture are sometimes “disregarded by officials without any medical training”, with the result that they continue to be held “against medical advice”.