Safeguards for Immigration Detainees Held in Prisons

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It is little known that, as well as immigration detention centres, the Home Office holds people in prisons under detention powers. The immigration estate is itself an opaque and under-reported phenomenon, but those in prisons receive even less attention and are afforded fewer rights; they inhabit the dark side of the dark side of immigration control. They are ‘outside the rules’. As Nick Hardwick, the former Chief Inspector of Prisons, told Parliament, those in prisons are ‘forgotten…they’re just stuck.’  

Unlike those held in detention centres, immigration detainees in prison are not permitted a mobile phone or internet access and face significant obstacles accessing charities, Home Office caseworkers, and lawyers [see our separate access to justice challenge].

Two of the rules that don’t apply to men and women held in prisons under immigration powers are Rules 34 and 35 of the Detention Centre Rules 2001. These rules prescribe prompt physical and mental examinations of all those held in detention centres, so that particularly vulnerable people who should not be in detention are brought to the attention of the Home Office.

No such comparable safeguard is in place for immigration detainees held in prisons.

While there are major systemic and operational problems with these rules in detention centres, the absence of equivalent safeguards for those being held in prisons is inherently unfair and simply unreasonable. There is no reason to think that detainees vulnerable to suffer harm as a result of detention in a detention centre would not suffer the same level of harm in a prison.

Our clients are challenging this gap by way of judicial review, and have lodged their cases in the High Court.

In the media:

Outside the rules: how immigration detainees in prison are let down