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Chief Inspector of Prisons concerned by lack of humanity at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre

Inspection report finds Harmondsworth is not making progress and some aspects are poorly managed
Date of Publication:
16 January 2014

Chief Inspector of Prisons concerned by lack of humanity at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre

16 January 2014

The latest inspection report on the Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre by the Chief Inspector of Prisons has found the centre is not making progress and some aspects are poorly managed.

You can read the full inspection report here.

Since his last report, the Chief Inspector found improvements had slowed and some aspects of safety had deteriorated. There was an inadequate focus on the needs of the most vulnerable detainees, including elderly and sick men, those at risk of self-harm through food refusal and others whose physical or mental health made them potentially unfit for detention.

News media highlighted that the report found an 84-year-old immigration detainee suffering from dementia, who was declared unfit for detention, had died in handcuffs at the centre.

The report said "[d]etention seemed to have been used as an inappropriate default for a man who required social care."

The Telegraph noted that the report found the case of the frail 84-year-old Canadian man who died was one of a number of cases of "grossly excessive use of restraints".

According to BBC News, inspectors condemned "shocking cases where a sense of humanity was lost".

A press release by HM Inspectorate of Prisons noted that inspectors were concerned to find that:

• detainees were kept in vehicles waiting to disembark, sometimes for hours, and reception procedures were completely inadequate;

• the centre was now holding fewer ex-prisoners but a number of security procedures lacked proportionality, such as the excessive use of separation;

• a lack of individual risk assessment meant that most detainees were handcuffed on escort and on at least two occasions, elderly, vulnerable and incapacitated detainees, one of whom was terminally ill, were handcuffed in an unacceptable manner;

• one man died shortly after his handcuffs were removed and the other, an 84-year-old man, died while still in restraints;

• the Rule 35 procedure that identified victims of torture and others with special conditions was failing to safeguard possible victims;

• some rooms were overcrowded and much of the centre was dirty and bleak;

• engagement between staff and detainees was just adequate and too many staff seemed confined to their offices; and

• some significant gaps in health care remained and the continuing uncertainty and disruption likely with the imminent change of health care provider meant there was potential for deterioration in this service.

However, inspectors were pleased to find that:

• most living units remained settled, violence was reasonably low and arrangements to tackle antisocial behaviour were effective;

• there had been an increase in the number of self-harm incidents since the last inspection but the care for those in crisis was good;

• the centre had been managing well a significant number of detainees who were refusing to accept food, although immigration enforcement requirements were interfering with the contractor's focus on the care needs of some vulnerable individuals;

• the range of recreational activity and the number of paid work places had improved since the last inspection;

• preparation for release was underpinned by some reasonably good welfare support; and

• charter removals were generally well managed.