April
09
2018
Author
Dave Smith
Inspector finds 'Significant Failings' at Harmondsworth IRC

Publishing a report on an inspection in September 2017, Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said a 2015 inspection of Europe’s largest immigration detention centre had highlighted concerns over safety, respect and provision of activities. In 2017, Harmondsworth had made some improvements since then, “but not of the scale or speed that were required. In some areas, there had been a deterioration. The centre’s task in caring for detainees was not made any easier by the profile of those who were held. There was a very high level of mental health need and nearly a third of the population was considered by the Home Office to be vulnerable under its at risk in detention policy. The continuing lack of a time limit on detention meant that some men had been held for excessively long periods: 23 men had been detained for over a year and one man had been held for over 4.5 years, which was unacceptable.”

Inspectors found:

  • Worryingly, in nearly all of a sample of cases, the Home Office accepted evidence that detainees had been tortured, but maintained detention regardless. “Insufficient attention was given to post-traumatic stress and other mental health problems.”
  • While violence was not high, a high number of detainees felt unsafe. Detainees told inspectors this was because of the uncertainty associated with their cases, but also because a large number of their fellow detainees seemed mentally unwell, frustrated or angry.
  • Drug use was an increasing problem.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“The centre had failed to progress significantly since our last visit in 2015. For the third consecutive inspection, we found considerable failings in the areas of safety and respect. Detainees, many identified as vulnerable, were not being adequately safeguarded. Some were held for unacceptably long periods. Mental health needs were often not met. Detainees were subject to some disproportionate security restrictions and living conditions were below decent standards. It is time for the Home Office and contractors to think again about how to ensure that more substantial progress is made.”

  1. The report, published on 13 March 2018, is available here.